Elephant herd now close to Kunming
Aerial photo taken on May 28, 2021 shows a herd of wild Asian elephants in Eshan county, Yuxi city, Southwest China's Yunnan province. [Photo/Xinhua]
A herd of wild Asian elephants that left Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in the south of Yunnan province last year is still moving northward, local media reported on Wednesday.
The 15-member herd has traveled nearly 500 kilometers from its original habitat. Experts said the move northward is unusual and they do not know the reason for it.
At noon on Wednesday, the herd was only 3 km from Kunming's suburban Jinning district. The city government has conducted surveillance and sent alerts on the herd's movement around the clock.
On Monday, forestry experts led the herd in a direction away from the center of the provincial capital by luring the elephants with food such as corn and pineapples.
They estimated that the elephants might continue to march north and very likely go through Kunming's Jinning and Anning districts.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the herd's movement.
Meanwhile, another herd of wild Asian elephants in Yunnan that recently broke into one of China's biggest botanic gardens may threaten protected plants there, authorities revealed on Tuesday.
The 17-member herd tried to enter the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden on May 23, but failed. A day later, it broke into the garden and it has since remained inside, the garden's administration office said.
"It's the first time the garden has been visited by elephants since its foundation in 1959," it said.
The office said the herd, which used to live in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, had passed by the garden in February.
"They tried to cross the river surrounding the garden but failed as the river keeps rising quickly in the rainy season," it said.
By Wednesday, the herd had moved to the eastern part of the garden, which is used for breeding seeds and harbors many plants with important research value, such as some subspecies of upland rice, sunflowers and oats.
The garden is a comprehensive research institution under the Chinese Academy of Sciences that is engaged in scientific research, species preservation, science communication and science and technology development, as well as being a well-known scenic spot.
Covering a total of 1,125 hectares, it includes 250 hectares of tropical rainforest. The garden is renowned for being one of the most diverse botanical gardens for outdoor plants in the world. It has 13,000 kinds of wild plants, with 1,350 of them endangered species.
Cameras have been placed in the garden to keep track of the herd. Some parts of the park with potential risks have been closed, including a major path and some tour sites in the east of the park.
The herd, which includes some young calves, will find it difficult to cross the river due to increasing rainfall, said Deng Yun, a researcher at the garden.
"They may have to stay within the park or the nearby region for a certain period," he said. "The garden has initiated an emergency plan to build fences as soon as possible to prevent its wild plants, especially those endangered species, from being damaged."
Garden staff members have been communicating with the forestry department, seeking professional guidance from experts to prevent conflicts between the elephants and people.
The Asian elephant, which is included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species as "endangered", enjoys Class-A protection in China, the same level afforded to the giant panda.
Most of the country's Asian elephants live in southern Yunnan, mainly in rainforest in the city of Pu'er and in Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture.
However, about two-thirds of them are now living outside the two regions' nature reserves because the increasing density of the forest canopy has resulted in food shortages, said Chen Mingyong, a life sciences professor at Yunnan University.