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Misguided nostalgia is not helpful

By Yang Yao | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-06 07:06

On Sept 19, I heard that there had been another attack on humans by wild elephants in the Xishuangbanna natural habitat protection zone.

"When my dad was driving a motorcycle with my mom, they ran into four elephants on the road. One elephant whipped my father with its trunk and trod on him. My mother escaped, but the elephant chased after her for about 20 meters before stopping. The elephants left 30 minutes later," said Li Guofei, son of the victim.

The local public information officer told me that the case was eligible for wildlife injury public insurance, and the injured man would get compensation within a month or so, though not much. Misguided nostalgia is not helpful

I heard so many tragic stories like this during my time there.

With the outside world advocating protecting wild elephants, little attention is being paid to the dangers the elephants pose to the local villagers.

Urban dwellers and farmers are always at odds over protecting wild animals, with urbanites favoring legislation to protect wild animals, while local villagers oppose such measures.

When I traveled to Xishuangbanna, I talked to a South African woman, who is working there helping local NGOs with their legal compliance.

"Generation after generation of villagers have lived with the wild animals. That is their original lifestyle," she said. "It is the changes that come from outside that causes the problems. And it is the villagers, the ones who have to live with wild animals, who are suffering."

The urban dwellers' mindset is a sort of "imperialist nostalgia", which wants to keep the natural beauty unchanged regardless of local people's livelihoods, but they are picturing a rosy future which probably existed only 100 years ago.

However, we cannot go back 100 hundred years ago. Changes happen everywhere; it is the driving force that makes the society move forward. Changes are inevitable, it is how the changes occur that is more important than discussing whether to make changes or not.

I saw a good example of animal protection when I was in Laos. An animal protection NGO hired local farmers to rage wild gorillas, and the money they paid them to was sufficient for them to make a living.

Here we talk about habitat protection and compensation everyday, but we should be talking about ways to empower the villagers to look after the animals because it is also in their interests to do so.


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