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Delicate balance needed for animals, humans

By Chen Liang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-28 09:51
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Asian elephants, once widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, are an iconic species with significant ecological value. At present, the global population of wild Asian elephants is around 50,000, with their habitats scattered across 13 countries. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List categorizes the Asian elephant as an endangered species.

In Yunnan province, there are nearly 300 wild Asian elephants in Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture, Pu'er city and Lincang prefecture. Since 1988, the animals have been classified as first-class protected species in the country.

The number of Asian elephants in China has increased from over 180 individuals in the 1990s to around 300 at present.

With the strengthening of conservation efforts and the improvement of people's awareness of protection, the elephant population continues to grow, and the range of their activities is expanding.

The overlap of elephant activity areas with the living and production areas of surrounding human populations restricts the development of some areas, making it an important goal of current conservation efforts to alleviate this conflict.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare initiated an Asian elephant protection project in 2000. The project aims to achieve harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants, said Ma Chenyue, program manager of IFAW China.

Between 2009 and 2014, the project collaborated with the forestry and grassland administration of Pu'er city to launch the first village-level warning monitoring system in China, establishing a long-term and efficient public safety prevention mechanism. This warning system covers more than 40 communities in four townships. In the same period, Ma said there were no safety incidents caused by direct conflicts between local villagers and elephant herds in these areas.

In recent years, as elephant activity areas have expanded into previously unexplored territories, human-elephant conflict zones have also expanded. In response, the project has provided technical support and equipment to the Asian Elephant Warning Monitoring Center in Menghai county, Xishuangbanna, including equipping 20 patrollers with monitoring devices to enhance their capabilities.

"The monitoring system covered over 50 villages where Asian elephants frequent in Menghai, benefiting more than 50,000 local residents," she said.

"As of May 2019, the monitoring system had successfully prevented about 57 incidents of human-elephant conflicts, according to the local government.

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