Breaking! First Human-Elephant Safety Network Established In China To Help Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict

Last week, China launched the first-of-its-kind Community Hero Network. This ranger-led initiative is dedicated to significantly reduce human-elephant conflicts (HEC) in the Jinghong area in Yunnan, China.

Bordering with Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, Yunnan, is the last remaining habitat for approximately 300 wild Asian elephants in China. In recent years, elephant movement has been gradually expanding to regions where there had been no Asian elephant presence for decades, leading to an increase in human-elephant conflicts and even some fatalities.

Since March 2020, a group of 18 elephants moved out of the Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve area into community land of Jinghong, where residents have no experience in co-existing with elephants, leading to several casualties and causing severe damage to property in a short period of time.

In collaboration with the government of Jinghong, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will support equipment and supplies needed for monitoring elephant movement and provide training to more than 50 local rangers on techniques for conducting human-elephant conflict mitigation. The rangers will then provide tailored and in-depth human-elephant safety training to villagers of all seven counties of Jinghong.

“Community Hero is one of the most important initiatives under our collaboration with Jinghong government partner,” said Dafan CAO, project lead of Asian Elephant Protection (AEP) who has almost 20 years of experience in HEC mitigation. “Rangers who work and live closely with local communities can provide timely and need-based support to local residents. We hope they will not only enhance human-elephant safety, but also become ambassadors for conservation of elephants and their habitats which we also depend on.”

According to the International Elephant Foundation, it is estimated that at the turn of the century, there were more than 100,000 elephants in Asia. The surviving population of Asian elephants is now estimated between 30,000–50,000, one-tenth of the population of African elephants.

It gives us hope that China is now implementing new strategies in order to reduce human-elephant conflicts and protect the estimated 300 elephants remaining in the country.

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