Wandering wild elephants in Yunnan

15 Asian elephants, all the way north, from the Xishuangbanna Reserve, took one year and three months to come near Eshan County, Yuxi City. As of this writing, the herd has arrived in Hongta District, Yuxi City, only 50 kilometers from Jinning District, Kunming City. Where are they going and why do they keep “going north The “North”? This national focus of “elephant watching “spectacle, but for the elephants, but the migration of necessity.

A single baby elephant slowly pacing in the farmland, a few hundred meters away from the pond, seven or eight farmers are quietly watching the movement of the baby elephant. This is the image captured on her cell phone by Lin Jing (a pseudonym), a native of Eshan County, who found it incredible to see wild elephants come to the border of the countryside and the city for the first time. “Elephants do not live in places like us in the north, usually in the Xishuangbanna, Pu’er area activities, listening to the older generation, there have been no elephants here for hundreds of years. “

Lin Jing’s hometown, in Yunnan Province, Yuxi City, Eshan County, Da Wei plug village committee Xiaozhai Village, 400 kilometers from the Asian elephant habitat Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve. the night of May 24, she saw the news in an epidemic prevention and control WeChat group that “The elephant herd has arrived in the village! “The next afternoon, Lin Jing deliberately returned home from Eshan County “Watching the elephants”. When she returned to the roof of her old home to look out, the elephant herd had already left, then only photographed the small elephant that had fallen alone. “I heard that this little elephant ate 200 pounds of wine lees over in Honghezhou and got drunk and fell out of line. “Lin Jing from “May Day” holiday began to pay attention to the news of the elephant herd northward. According to the information released by the Yunnan Province Honghe Prefecture Forestry and Grassland Bureau, from April 16 to May 16, the original 17 Asian elephants living in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve migrated from Mojiang County in Pu’er City to Yuanjiang Hani and Yi Dai Autonomous County in Yuxi City. Along the way, a number of villagers captured the picture of the elephant migration, elephants in groups, small elephants in the middle of the team, through the farmland, and sometimes broke the fence and scaffolding of farmers. During the period, two elephants turned back to the territory of Mojiang, the evening of the 24th, the remaining 15 Asian elephant herd migrated to the area of Eshan County, Yuxi City, Eshan, Dawei plug village, two days later, came to Eshan County. Lin Jing the afternoon of the 25th photographed the fallen baby elephants, the next day back to the team, the 26th at 7 pm, the elephant herd arrived at the entrance to the county, only 300 meters from the county.

The road section where the elephants were located was soon closed and they took a detour to the village next to it. Lin Jing’s friend sent her a video of an infrared surveillance camera outside the house where the elephants were milling around in front of the house and even knocked on their door. The villagers received a notice to seal the village, which was not lifted until 4 a.m. the next day, when the elephant circled the village and came back to the exit of Eshan County. at 8:30 p.m. on the 27th, Lin Jing saw the elephant once again, only two or three hundred meters from the nearest neighborhood. Seven or eight trucks blocked the elephant’s way into town, and although the staff kept evacuating the crowd, curious people still gathered at a distance to watch.

This night, Lin Jing’s circle of friends was the elephant video screen, people upstairs have taken out their phones to record the moment. In one video, an elephant ran into the garage, the crowd screaming and police said “run! The sounds of the crowd screaming and the police saying “run” were intertwined. She thought that both the people and the elephant should have been quite frightened. Early the next morning, the city’s security was lifted and the herd walked to a nearby brewery in the afternoon, later entering the dense forest of the Ebong Mountains.

Why did they stay away from their homes?

Eshan County was the last stop of the wild elephant herd’s migration so far, and by the time they arrived in the county, the 15 Asian elephants had been on the run from the reserve for a year and three months. According to media comps, as early as March 2020, the herd left the Meng Yangzi Reserve, where they live in the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve, to move to the urban county of Pu’er, entering Mojiang County in December, becoming the first elephant herd to visit Mojiang and giving birth to a baby elephant on the way. With the addition of new members, the herd continued northward, migrating to Yuanjiang County in Yuxi City in April of the following year, staying for about a month before continuing its migration on May 16, arriving in Eshan County eight days later, where it has been active in nearby villages ever since.

This herd of northward elephants, because of which a small elephant trunk once injured, broken a section, so called “broken trunk family “. Wang Qiaoyan, a senior engineer at the Scientific Research Institute of the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve Management Bureau, told the media that the herd consists of six adult female elephants, three male elephants, three subadult elephants and three juvenile elephants.

“Asian elephants are generally active in groups, with an adult female leader and other adult female elephants related to her, with their own children, including subadults or juveniles, together. “He Changhuan told the journal. Before becoming editor of the journal Museum, He Changhuan obtained his PhD in ecology at Beijing Normal University, where his main research interests were population genetics and conservation biology of Asian elephants, and had visited the distribution sites of Asian elephants in China to conduct sampling surveys. He Changhuan said that male Asian elephants will leave the herd of their own accord after reaching adulthood, and basically never return to their native herd after leaving in order to prevent inbreeding. The male elephant is a slow process, the three male elephants in the herd, should be relatively young, is in the time to leave the herd, and not the time to leave the herd, not the lead elephant. Therefore, he believes that the online circulation of “young lead elephant lost the way to lead the herd all the way to the north “The argument does not hold water. So why would these 15 Asian elephants go all the way north to Eshan County, where they have never been before? He Changhuan speculated that this may be related to the increase in the number of Asian elephants and the spread of the race, they should be looking for food. Based on DNA sampling tests of Asian elephant dung, He Changhuan observed that the number of wild elephants has been growing slowly for two decades, and there are now about 250-300 in the Xishuangbanna reserve. “The capacity and food of the reserve is limited, and there are just so many plants, so the individual elephants that grow out are definitely going to spread. “He Changhuan told the journalist that an adult elephant eats about 300 pounds of food every day. Currently in the junction of the dry season and the rainy season, fresh plants have not grown a lot, which may be one of the reasons that prompted the elephants to go out for food.

However, Asian elephants in Banna, Pu’er near the village to eat crops common, all the way north but not common. He Changhuan believes that this is because along the road are mostly farmland and plantation forests, no large areas of forest can meet the Asian elephant’s diet, so they can only keep going forward to forage for food. However, migrating hundreds of kilometers like this one is still very rare.

Zhang Li, a professor of ecology at Beijing Normal University and a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission, said in a media interview that this group of Asian elephants is probably looking for a new habitat. Zhang Li once did a vegetation change analysis of the Asian elephant distribution area through satellite remote sensing photos. In the past 40 years, the native forests on which the Asian elephants depend have been reduced by more than 4,300 square kilometers. Traditional rice cultivation has given way to higher economic value-added crops such as tea and rubber, and the area of tea land has increased by more than 5,000 square kilometers, while the area of rubber has increased by more than 4,700 square kilometers. With such a squeeze on reclaimed cultivation, even as Asian elephant populations are gradually recovering, the habitat suitable for Asian elephants, is diminishing. “It’s decreased by about 40 percent. ” Zhang Li pointed out.

Gu Bojian, a doctoral student at Fudan University’s School of Life Sciences, has long studied biodiversity conservation in Yunnan. He told the Journal that there is a large amount of forest along the route of this elephant migration, but the high altitude, high humidity and steep slope are not a good choice of habitat for them. Although Yunnan is rich in vegetation, it is the patches of low-altitude, lowland tropical or subtropical forests that are suitable for Asian elephants to live and survive, and there is not much overall distribution.

“Up north ” is actually not the only migration pathway for elephants either. Gu Bojian’s former colleague sent a weibo from the Banna Botanical Garden, where they monitored a herd of elephants coming out of the Mengyangzi Reserve, all the way south to Menglun, where there had been no elephant sightings for 50 years. The news also reinforced Gu Bojian’s view that “it doesn’t matter if they go north or south, what matters is that they are always looking for new habitats. “In addition to foraging, looking for habitat mainstream speculation, whether climate change may also be the cause of elephant migration? Since November last year, the province of Yunnan showed a drought with little rainfall, and Jinghong, where the Meng Yangzi Reserve is located, broke records in March for average temperature and the number of days the heat lasted in previous years. Both Gu Bojian and He Changhuan have a negative view on this. “The coldest time in Banna about 10 degrees, the hottest 40 degrees, Asian elephants have lived here for a long time, has adapted to this temperature, and their body’s ability to regulate the temperature is very strong, temperature changes should will not be the reason for their migration. “He Changhuan said. People and elephants, which is in or out?

In the live footage of netizens, some of the elephants strutted through the villages, while others ate the rice paddies and corn fields clean. Some had sad music for the small elephants that were left alone, and some were only a short distance away from the elephants. This elephant migration did not cause any casualties, Lin Jing observed that this group of elephants did not have obvious aggression, perhaps this is the universal participation to this “cloud watching elephant Perhaps this is the reason why all people participated in this “cloud elephant watching”. However, such a scene of human-elephant harmony is not the norm.

According to the Xishuangbanna State Forestry Bureau, from 1991 to 2016, wild Asian elephants in Yunnan caused losses of about 327 million yuan, resulting in 53 deaths and 299 injuries. According to news reports, from April to May 2019, four wild elephant injuries occurred in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, killing three and injuring one. And the migrating herd of elephants counted 412 hits during the 40-day stay in Yuanjiang and Shiping counties. Lin Jing said that the fallen immature “baby elephants ” is also as tall as a eucalyptus tree, even if curious, local villagers will keep their distance. He Changhuan recalled to this reporter that when he samples elephant dung, he must have a local ranger familiar with the situation with him to ensure safety. “Asian elephants do not actively attack humans and are very quiet when they are not moving. But if each other are not noticed, each other frightened, it will be dangerous, after all, they are huge. “

(The above is an excerpt)

Li Haoyuan_鲤太史

Recently my dad has been giving me a live broadcast of the #FifteenElephants fantasy adventure.

There were fifteen elephants that traveled from the deep and secluded valley of Pu’er, all the way north, into my hometown of Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan Province. And at one point in Shiping County, Honghe Prefecture, which is close to Shiping, they turned around at some toll station and then left Shiping and went to Yuxi.

At that time, I read that these elephants started somewhere from Pu’er or Banna near the border with China and Myanmar, and traveled all the way north, surprisingly crossing the Mourning Mountains, and even taking advantage of the dry season to grab the usually vast Red River and go straight to the hinterland of central Yunnan – bearing in mind that Shiping and Jianshui are the documented cities of Yunnan since the Ming and Qing dynasties, and it is only 100 kilometers north to Kunming. And Yuxi is even closer to Kunming, bordering the Jinning district. I was just curious, curious about how such a huge herd of elephants made their way north to my hometown, a place where they had not been seen for a thousand years. How did they spend the night in the central Yunnan plateau, where the difference between day and night is huge, looking for food in this strange land? What drove them to migrate for three months, all the way north?

I hadn’t updated my dad’s live feed for a week, and although I’d heard that the local Yunnan community had been following the elephant migration for fun, I didn’t care much, figuring that the highland climate, which is completely different from that of the deep valley, would keep these southern visitors entertained.

And today, just an hour or so ago, my dad told me that the elephants were still heading north, singing their way through the river valley, strutting down the avenue of Eshan County, Yuxi City, with cars in front of them, no one around, and curious residents hiding in their homes and saluting with their cell phones – yes, from The elephants have been arranged for the “tourist visits” from Pu’er to Yuxi to Honghe, and all the counties have set up a team to ensure that the elephants are in harmony with each other. As the first priority, to ensure the safety of the elephants into the village, up and down the mountain, and today, fifteen elephants to enjoy the treatment of a special car. As the sun set in the west, fifteen elephants gathered in a group on the long street, pacing peacefully, with a human vehicle in front of them, and the human elephants tacitly keeping their distance.

I was very shocked, from the deep forests of Pu’er Banna to Eshan County, Yuxi City, a straight-line distance of more than four hundred kilometers, before and after crossing deep valleys, large rivers, dams, mountains and other landscapes, experience the subtropical climate of deep valley rainforest climate and highland mountain-type climate, feel the change from rainforest to evergreen broad-leaved forest, three months ago, long vines around the trees, ancient trees, three months later, trees, mountain villages and fields, fifteen elephants The elephants are in the deepest part of the forest and on the edge of human society, forcing their way across the fast flowing Red River, trekking through the cloudy mountains, all the way to the north. Inadvertently, they also like to meet you. They must be full of curiosity, this intelligent creature, has not come to the shores of Dianchi for almost 2,000 years.

My goodness, this is a fantastical adventure for fifteen elephants. After all, there were still more than a hundred kilometers to go before they would arrive at Cuihu Park in Kunming. If you take a taxi, the highway is only an hour and fifty minutes.

To this day, we still don’t know why the elephants came and when they will leave. All we know is that, as of now, they are still on the march, and he can go west to Sanjiangyuan, or east to Puzhehehe, or all the way north to see the different blue skies of Kunming.

From now on, I will never say that there are no elephants roaming the roads of Yunnan, because look, aren’t they coming to my doorstep?