[Follow the elephant to see the ecology]
Guangming Daily reporter Xu Tan Zhang Lei
As of June 11, the Asian elephant herd that moved north has traveled to the vicinity of Nanshan Mountain, Shijie Township, Yimen County, Yuxi City, Yunnan Province. “Ancestors” and other entertaining topics have been hotly discussed by the public. On the other hand, the voices that attributed the long-distance migration of Asian elephants to “habitat reduction” and “elephant not having a home” began to spread. So, what exactly is this Asian elephant migration? What kind of habitat is suitable for them to survive? How far is the elephant migration? In response to these public concerns, a reporter from Guangming Daily interviewed Chen Fei, director of the Asian Elephant Research Center of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration.
Reporter: Is there any precedent in history for Asian elephants to move northward so far?
Chen Fei:Internationally, the long-distance migration of Asian elephants is a common phenomenon. Asian elephants in India have migrated to countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and even arrived in Myanmar as far away as Southeast Asia. There are also cross-border activities of wild Asian elephants in Mengla County, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan and the three northern provinces of Laos. Historically, the Asian elephants in the Mengyang area of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve have the habit of migrating and spreading in all directions. Since 1995, more than 30 Asian elephants have spread northward to Simao District of Pu’er City. In 2005, 13 Asian elephants spread westward to Lancang County, and are currently wandering between Menghai County and Lancang County. In 2011, some elephant herds spread eastward to Jiangcheng County, Pu’er City. In 2020, another elephant family group will go south from Mengyang and enter Menglun via Ganlan Dam. It is currently staying near the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This time the elephants traveled farther than before, which attracted more people’s attention.
Recently, a photo taken by the unmanned aerial vehicle monitoring task team of the Yunnan Forest Fire Fighting Corps became popular on the Internet. In the picture, the Asian elephants are sleeping and resting in the woodland of Laijia New Village, Xiyang Township, Jinning District, Kunming.Photo courtesy of Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade
Reporter: Was the Asian elephant migration caused by the reduction of the original habitat?
Chen Fei:The reasons for the northward migration of the elephant herd should be comprehensively analyzed in combination with the characteristics of species migration, population expansion, and exploration of new migration sites. my country has strengthened the protection of wild animals. In the past 30 years, the population of Asian elephants has continued to grow, and population expansion and migration will naturally occur. The legal scope of the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve is all state-owned forests. The local management department has been strictly following the protection area regulations for management and has achieved good ecological benefits. There has been no serious damage to forest resources in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve. Happening. Whether human beings delineate a protected area or the habitat of Asian elephants, it is the subjective will of human beings, and it is an area set for wild animals. But Asian elephants are wild animals. As long as they think where there is food and which place is suitable for survival, they will use these places as habitats. In recent years, in response to the increase in the number of Asian elephant populations, the reserve has carried out food source base construction, etc., and related habitat restoration and transformation work has achieved initial results.
Reporter: Why did this group of Asian elephants migrate so far?
Chen Fei:The long-distance migration of wild animals depends on the connectivity of landscape and environmental conditions, and Asian elephants are no exception. Foreign studies have found that Asian elephants are good at using some linear residual forests along the way to migrate. The farmland near the forest edge is the key to migration. The food in the farmland provides energy for the migrating Asian elephants. This time, 15 Asian elephants can go northward to explore new habitats unimpeded, which is also attributed to the replenishment of forests and farmland restored along the way. Regarding the connectivity of habitats and landscapes, Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve Management and Protection Bureau has long proposed plans for the protection of Asian elephant habitats and migration corridors. The aforementioned “southward” elephant group route is consistent with the planning of the corridor in this area, which also proves the effectiveness of the protection of scientific research from the side. Since 2016, the Forestry Department of Yunnan Province has been planning the Asian Elephant National Park, so the protection prospects are positive and optimistic.
Reporter: Why do Asian elephants prefer farmland?
Chen Fei:Elephant feeding on crops is a common form of “human-elephant conflict”. The Asian elephant is a generalized diet animal. The domestic research literature has accumulated 240 species of food plants, including many crops. Especially in the food shortage season, Asian elephants will show seasonal changes in their food choices and undergo seasonal migration. In recent years, due to the relatively concentrated and large amount of food crops planted by humans, Asian elephants can obtain sufficient and nutritious food without having to go through large-scale activities, and they have become dependent on food crops. As elephants walk out of the reserve to feed on crops, the overlap between humans and elephants is increasing.
Reporter: In order to ensure the safety of human life, what measures have the local government and relevant departments taken?
Chen Fei:This is a dialogue and exchange between humans and wild animals. On the one hand, it is the migration of wild elephants, and on the other hand, the local government has dealt with it in an orderly manner. Only by keeping an eye on the elephants, controlling people, and making claims, can the safety of the masses and Asian elephants be guaranteed. We have seen that during the migration of the elephant herd, the state and local governments and various departments attached great importance to it and adopted various measures to ensure the safety of human elephants. For example, continue to use drones to track the object group in real time, and emergency personnel will set up food feeding areas for the elephants along the way, including bananas, corn, pineapples, etc., to avoid threats caused by the elephants entering densely populated areas, and set up defense lines and routes to guide the elephants Stay away from the crowds and enter sparsely populated forest areas, etc. At the same time, the local area also warned and evacuated residents in advance when the elephant herd approached the population gathering place. As of now, no one has been injured in the area where the elephant herd passes, and the affected residents whose homes are destroyed by the elephant herd will also receive corresponding compensation for wildlife accidents.
“Guangming Daily” (June 12, 2021 03 Edition)