China News Agency, Kunming, August 11th: How to solve the worldwide problem of "human-elephant conflict"?

  China News Agency reporter Hu Yuanhang Han Shuainan

  In recent years, due to habitat degradation, more and more wild elephants have left the forest and entered human activity areas.

This is not only a challenge faced by many wild elephant distribution countries, but also a microcosm of the conflict between biodiversity conservation and economic and social development experienced by the international community.

In order to solve this problem, on the occasion of World Elephant Day on August 12, China News Agency's "East and West Questions" column invited Chen Fei, director of the Asian Elephant Research Center of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration of China, and internationally renowned elephant experts, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, researcher of the Research Group of Large Mammal Diversity and Conservation in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, had a dialogue.

  A summary of the interview transcript is as follows:

  China News Service: Last year, the safe return of more than 10 wild elephants from the north to the south in Yunnan attracted the attention of the world, and also attracted more people's attention to the issue of "human-elephant conflict".

What is the reason for the "human-elephant conflict"?

What is the impact?

  Chen Fei:

"Human-Elephant Conflict" refers to the conflict between humans and elephants.

Much of the "human-elephant conflict" is the result of habitat loss and fragmentation.

Whether it is Asian elephants or African elephants, there are widespread "human-elephant conflicts" in areas where elephants are distributed in the world, and the consequences are also very disastrous.

Over the past 100 years, due to habitat loss, ivory poaching and "human-elephant conflict", African elephant populations have declined from 3 million to 5 million to 470,000 to 690,000, and Asian elephant populations have declined from 100,000 to 40,000 to 50,000 During this time, the number of elephants has been decreasing.

Human beings are also facing serious threats and losses. In India and Sri Lanka, more than 100 people are killed or injured by elephant accidents every year. In Kenya, more than 200 people have died due to African elephant accidents in the past seven years. At the same time, residents also suffered a lot of property damage. Some small farmers may lose a year of their livelihoods due to the momentary plundering of crops by elephants, and larger farms suffer huge losses each year.

  Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz:

In fact, as long as humans and elephants live under the same sky and share the same land, regardless of the local climate, environment, and humanities, there will inevitably be "human-elephant conflicts".

The essence of "human-elephant conflict" is that human-elephant is competing for resources with each other.

This conflict has existed since ancient times, but as humans appropriate more and more of nature's resources for their own use, the human element prevails.

The loss of natural habitat has made the conflict between elephants and people more and more direct.

A wild Asian elephant was photographed on July 31, 2022, in Kangping Town, Pu'er, Yunnan.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  China News Agency reporter: What measures have wild elephant distribution countries taken to deal with the "human-elephant conflict", and what is the effect?

  Chen Fei:

In recent years, people's awareness of protecting Asian elephants has gradually increased. Asian elephants no longer fear human beings, and more and more frequently go out of protected areas to eat crops. In addition, the number of Asian elephants has increased, and the contradiction has become more prominent.

In foreign countries, people mainly use biological, physical or chemical deterrents such as bees, peppers and tobacco to drive elephants away from farmland and human settlements, but in many cases drastic and confrontational measures have intensified the aggression of elephants.

In addition, other countries are defending themselves by changing their farming practices by growing crops that elephants do not like.

At the same time, the management and prevention of problem elephants is also an important means: for example, Malaysia will transfer some serious elephants to other forest areas every year; Kenya's wildlife protection management department shoots and kills 50 to 50 to 120 question icons.

Countries such as Nepal and Indonesia have reduced the chance of human-elephant contact by building important migration corridors.

But overall, so far, there is no better way for the world to completely avoid "human-elephant conflict".

Elephant monitoring tower built in Kangping Town, Pu'er City, Yunnan Province.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz:

Affected by the regional and human environment, the behavior of wild elephants will vary, which makes the relationship between human and elephant more complicated.

For example, China is in a situation of "more people and fewer elephants". The habitat of elephants in China is relatively fragmented, and the surrounding areas of their habitats are mostly land used by humans, making it easier to encounter people.

In Malaysia, "there are fewer people and more elephants". There is a large area of ​​land used for palm cultivation. The activities of elephants will cause certain damage to the palms, but the chance of encountering people is much smaller.

Sri Lanka is "more people and more elephants", and the probability of "human-elephant conflict" is relatively high.

Although the local people love Asian elephants very much, when the "human-elephant conflict" intensifies, some people have to hunt down Asian elephants to ease the conflict.

Therefore, when discussing the truth of "human-elephant conflict", it is necessary to consider human factors, Asian elephant factors, and environmental factors.

  At present, from a global perspective, some regions take a radical approach and use shooting to deal with "human-elephant conflicts"; some regions are not so radical, and will adopt some methods to scare Asian elephants and let them leave, but Asian elephants are aware of it. It will return after humans do not pose a real threat to it; some regions will resort to moving Asian elephants from conflict areas to other regions, but usually Asian elephants will return to their original home range; some Electronic fences have been invented and widely used in the region, and have achieved good results.

Overall, we have no way to eradicate "human-elephant conflict", but to reduce it to an acceptable level.

An elephant guardrail installed next to a house in Yanqing Village, Dadugang Township, Jinghong City, Yunnan Province.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  Reporter from China News Agency: Previously, the elephant herd in Yunnan, which attracted the attention of the world, has returned to the south safely with joint efforts.

What lessons can be drawn from this case?

  Chen Fei:

Through the successful case of Yunnan elephant herds returning from the north to the south, we found that increasing the tolerance of elephants and taking some flexible intervention measures such as food lures and electric pulse fences are effective methods to alleviate the "human-elephant conflict".

But this undoubtedly requires a lot of human, material and financial resources, and is not a long-term solution.

The most fundamental way to alleviate the "human-elephant conflict" is to create more suitable habitats for elephants. In addition to the necessary conditions such as area and forest quality, it is also necessary to consider the huge food demand of elephants and the range of population activities, and develop relevant habitats. Renovation, construction work, construction of ecological corridors for habitat connectivity, etc.

Currently, China is exploring the further restoration of Asian elephant habitat through the construction of national parks.

Aerial photography of the 2,500-mu Asian elephant food source base in Kangping Town, Pu'er City, Yunnan Province.

(UAV photo) Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz:

Dealing with "human-elephant conflict" is not a broad issue, but a specific one.

In the process of returning from the north to the south, the elephant herds in Yunnan have gained at least three useful experiences.

The first is that the public's attitude towards elephants is crucial to alleviating the "human-elephant conflict".

In China, both the government and the people are very active in protecting Asian elephants, which is the basis for the resolution of this sudden crisis.

The second point is to look at the conservation of elephants in a more dynamic light.

The population of Asian elephants is dynamic, and if the population grows, they don't just stay in the reserve, they run away.

The third is the large-scale migration of elephants and the approaching of urban areas, which will bring a series of livelihood problems. Yunnan has achieved good exploration in terms of compensation for accidents, early warning, and multi-department cooperation.

These experiences will help to deal with the problem of "human-elephant conflict" in the future.

  China News Service: Compared with the existing national parks in the world, what breakthroughs will China's planned Asian Elephant National Park achieve?

Can it bring about fundamental changes in solving the "human-elephant conflict"?

  Chen Fei:

Compared with the existing national parks in the world, China's national parks have distinct Chinese characteristics.

  First, pay more attention to protection.

China positions national parks as the most important type of nature reserves, implements the strictest, most scientific and most standardized protection management, and pays more attention to protecting the authenticity and integrity of the ecosystem.

Staff of the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve Management Bureau in Yunnan Province displayed the mobile phone software of the Asian Elephant Monitoring and Early Warning System.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  Second, more emphasis is placed on system construction.

The Chinese government has the advantages of strong administrative control ability and unified exercise of collective will. From the perspective of ecological civilization construction, the Chinese government can carry out the construction of a natural reserve system with national parks as the main body as a whole, and build an effective and long-term mechanism.

  Furthermore, more emphasis is placed on the combination of ecological protection and community development.

When the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries established national parks, there were large tracts of wilderness and no-man’s land. The population in the national parks was small, and community conflicts were not prominent.

China has a large population. Some of the aborigines in the national parks gather in the form of administrative villages, and more are natural villages irregularly distributed in the national parks. There are also some nomadic "winter nests" or summer pastures. Temporary tents have the characteristics of "large dispersion and small concentration".

In response to this feature, China pays more attention to community and people's livelihood construction in the process of national park construction and protection, scientific planning, rational zoning, differentiated policies and management measures, and community residents as co-construction partners, so as to achieve "ecological The win-win goal of beauty and wealth for the people.

  In addition to these characteristics, the Asian Elephant National Park that is being planned and constructed has also achieved some innovations for the protection of Asian elephants, such as retaining part of the farmland where Asian elephants are concentrated, and establishing a corresponding planting compensation mechanism to supplement the food of Asian elephants. source, to attract elephants to return to the forest, to settle stably, to alleviate the "human-elephant conflict", and to realize the harmonious coexistence of human and elephant.

On July 28, 2022, in Jinghong, Yunnan, a staff member lifted the sign of the Asian Elephant Food Source Base, which was trampled by wild Asian elephants.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  At present, the scale of elephants entering human territory is unprecedented, which challenges the traditional means of animal control.

How to solve the "human-elephant conflict" is not only about the harmonious coexistence of humans and animals, but also a test of human wisdom and courage.

Fortunately, the current treatment method is gradually changing from blocking to sparse, from single to multiple, and from short-term considerations to sustainable development.

Only in this way can it be suitable for both human development and wild animal development.

It is believed that the construction of the Asian Elephant National Park with a more comprehensive protection concept will bring about fundamental changes to alleviate the "human-elephant conflict" in the region.

  Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz:

The purpose of establishing the Asian Elephant National Park is to protect the tropical rain forest and the Asian elephant.

Compared with traditional nature reserves, Asian Elephant National Park will involve many elements related to people, integrate more resources, and manage more systematically.

The United States created the world's first national park, but most of its area is uninhabited, and human activities in the park are very small.

The Asian Elephant National Park established by China will create a new model and accumulate more experience for better resolving the "human-elephant conflict" and even handling the relationship between humans and nature.


  Interviewee Profile:

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

  Chen Fei, director of the Asian Elephant Research Center of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration.

Mainly engaged in research on Asian elephants, their habitats, and biodiversity.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Jiaxian

  Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, Chinese name Kang Musa, is a Spanish researcher at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

He has served as the co-chair of the capacity building working group of the IUCN Asian Elephant Expert Group, the chairman of the Tropical Biology and Conservation Association, and the chairman of the Asian branch of the Society for Conservation Biology, etc., mainly engaged in the ecology and protection of Asian megafauna, seed dispersal, and human-wildlife conflicts , multidisciplinary conservation science and conservation capacity building research.