When elephants leave primary protected areas (PPAs), such as national parks and game reserves, they may come into conflict with people residing on the adjoining land. In this study, I attempted to determine why African savannah elephants leave the PPAs in which they were collared. To accomplish this, I used telemetry locations of collared elephants in PPAs throughout southern Africa and investigated whether a range of intrinsic and extrinsic variables could explain why elephants crossed the boundaries of the PPAs. Adjoining many of the PPAs were secondary protected areas (SPAs), which consisted of community conservancies, and collectively with the PPAs formed clusters of protected areas. Most (45 of 49) elephants roamed beyond the PPAs but they remained within the clusters of protected areas. The elephants utilised both the PPAs and the SPAs and appeared to not feel threatened when using the SPAs. The reasons for elephants leaving PPAs varied both seasonally and between the sexes. The females roamed beyond the PPAs more during the wet season than the dry season, whereas, for males there was no seasonal difference. During the wet season, female and male habitat selection was similar within and beyond the PPAs. During the dry season, more females and males beyond the PPAs selected for areas close to people, which could be indicative of water. The proportion of male and female home ranges beyond PPAs did not increase with increasing density of elephant populations within the PPAs, nor did the proportion of female home ranges beyond PPAs increase with increasing population growth rate of elephant populations within the PPAs. Therefore, high numbers of elephants within the PPAs did not drive elephants beyond the boundaries. Contrastingly, the proportion of male home ranges beyond the PPAs did increase with increasing population growth rate. However, the results were inconclusive due to small sample size. This study confirms that elephants are utilising the SPAs as well as the PPAs. Therefore, the importance of including the SPAs in conservation actions for elephants cannot be over-emphasized.