Cameras, canteens and rangers: how part of China protects its wild elephants | World news
Longlong the elephant is eight months old, 300 kg – and still hungry. Even a short walk through the forest to its sanctuary takes time, as it eats every piece of foliage within reach of its trunk.
He was found with his leg stuck in vines and taken to a rescue center in Xishuangbanna, southwest China.
Chen Jiming is a ranger at the sanctuary, but he says his most important job is “father elephant”. He spends the whole day with Longlong.
For a long time, biodiversity has taken a back seat to China’s economic development. But now the country is devoting much more effort and resources to protecting its wildlife.
“Wild elephants, according to our observation, have increased in population over the years,” Chen told Sky News.
“We have noticed that whenever wild elephants move in or around the Wild Elephant Protection Area and Valley, we always find new baby elephants. This proves the growth of the wild elephant population. with the years.”
The population has grown so much in fact – from 150 elephants in the 1980s to over 300 today – that they have started looking for new pastures.
This summer, a herd of elephants filled their trunk and set off on an adventure, covering hundreds of miles and spending 17 months on the road. Their long march broke the Chinese Internet and was the story of the summer.
In Xishuangbanna, they introduced new systems last year to monitor wild elephants and minimize the risk of conflict.
Over 600 infrared cameras monitor the entire area.
When they detect movement, they take a photo and computer software identifies whether it is an elephant or not. Alerts are sent to anyone on the elephant warpath through an app and loudspeakers emit warnings in villages.
Tan Xuji, director of the center, told Sky News, “We and the Forestry Authority do a lot of education work and popularize elephant protection knowledge to the local people.
“Once we issue the alerts, local people receive them, they will not approach elephants, scare them or hunt them.
“Conflicts between elephants and humans have greatly diminished.”
The technology is combined with more practical work in the field.
Rangers track elephants on foot, sometimes climbing five meters in trees for a safe view.
They widened some of the routes usually taken by elephants, away from population centers, and equipped them with infrared cameras.
More recently, they have planted what they call “elephant canteens” – areas filled with the elephants’ favorite food.
Yan Wenjiao, Deputy Head of Dadugang Town, shows Sky News a freshly planted section deep in the mountain forest.
“This area is one of the elephant crossings,” Yan explains.
“Every year they pass. Another reason is that no one lives here. It can reduce the damage to people. This place is far from people’s villages. It can protect people’s safety. We have set up a canteen for them. elephants here to feed them so they don’t go to people. “
All of this is good news for Longlong as he grows up and returns to the wild.