Long elephant march adds urgency to China’s conservation efforts

Herds of wild elephants passing through villages and towns in southwest China’s Yunnan have sparked excitement among fans online and made the country’s efforts to protect the animals’ natural habitat urgent. ..

Last spring, 16 Asian elephants started walking north from Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve in the tropical region adjacent to Myanmar and Laos.

In June, the group, now 15, including a newborn, had traveled 500 km near Kunming, the vast capital of Yunnan. In the process, they became obsessed with people.

Chinese media visit the herds daily and share the latest footage from security cameras with elephant drones marching along tea fields and boulevards.

A fleet of vehicles and an army of officials were mobilized to escort the elephants. On one day this month, authorities dispatched 360 police and emergency response officers, 76 police cars and dump trucks, 5 excavators and 9 drones, and 16 tons of food, according to the agency. Xinhua official press. Gave to

Some users of Weibo microblogging platforms like Twitter in China have noticed the damage caused by elephants breaking doors in search of food, but most of the users sleep with their mothers. I focused on pictures of elephant calves and the intelligence of the creatures.

In one of the widely shared videos, an elephant walks to the main door of a village house and uses its trunk to turn on the tap so the herd can drink.

In another example, a baby elephant appeared to be drunk while eating fermented grain, encouraging local musicians to write a song about the drunken elephant from Yunnan.

As the herd neared Kunming, Chinese experts urgently discussed the exact cause of the migration and how to deal with the elephants wandering around the 8-meter town.

Zhao Xiaodong, former director of the IFAW Asian Elephant Conservation Project in Xishuangbanna, which teaches local villagers how to handle elephants safely, said the northward movement of the herd was “very rare” as it did not follow. not a fixed route. Mentionned.

“Over the past two decades, the conservation of Asian elephants means their numbers have increased, but the reduction of virgin forests outside protected areas has reduced their living space and extended elephants into areas of human activity. “He said.

As Kunming prepares to host the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity in October, new attention is being paid to elephant habitats. Environmentalists hope China will take this opportunity to step up efforts to protect endangered wildlife and expand nature reserves.

According to environmentalists, the fact that herds of elephants may have been able to move chaotically around the village is a step towards protecting China’s protected species from the past. © via Reuters

Asian elephants enjoy the highest level of species protection in China. Hundreds of years ago the herd roamed what is now central China, but in recent decades the population of around 300 elephants has been confined to Yunnan.

The local government has launched a campaign to keep animals away from Kunming. They blocked roads and planted pineapples, sweet corn and other food tracks to keep animals away from densely populated areas.

Zhou Jinfeng, director of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, warned that attempts to repel elephants are the wrong approach and may increase the risk of human conflict.

“My suggestion is that they shouldn’t stop their migration entirely, but rather establish a migration corridor,” he said.

According to Zhou, the villagers’ lack of tolerance and violence against elephants was a significant change from the past and a positive sign of the acceptance of protected species. “It was particularly reassuring for me,” he said.

Emma Zhou’s additional report in Beijing


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Douglas Mackenzie

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