African elephants face an uncertain future. Politics, war, sustained media campaigns, corrupt, weak or absent institutions supporting conservation, land-use planning or general governance, and greed are all bringing elephants into direct conflict with humans. Although elephant populations have declined considerably relative to their historical size and range, human populations have expanded to occupy and intensively use remaining elephant areas. Strategies to minimize perceptions of conflict and the implementation of land-use planning with biodiversity protection as its goal could help to sustain at least some populations of elephants. Here, we review threats to elephants, with an emphasis on those resulting from human perceptions of conflict, and suggest some mechanisms for grappling with these threats.