China’s elephant ‘canteen’ keeps villagers safe from peckish pachyderms


BingLin Chen, South China Morning Post

Date Published

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Forestry authorities in southwestern China have opened a “canteen” for wild Asian elephants in a bid to stop them wandering into villages in search of food and coming into conflict with humans.

The facility spans about 66 hectares in a wildlife reserve in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, China National Radio reported.

To make it irresistible to the pachyderms, the area has been stripped of all non-native trees and shrubs and restocked with their favourite food plants. These include such delights as paper mulberry and Nepalese broom grass, the report said.

With such an abundant food supply, the elephants are not the only creatures attracted to the new area. Antelopes and boars have also been seen tucking in to the treats on offer.

Over the past decade, the wild elephant population in Yunnan has doubled to more than 300, according to forestry authorities. As a result there has been increased competition for food and the hungry animals have increasingly gone in search of sustenance in villages and even towns.

Between 1991 and 2016, more than 40 people in Yunnan were killed in elephant attacks, according to official statistics.

In May, a 69-year-old farmer was killed in Fazhanhe prefecture, close to Xishuangbanna, in an attack by two elephants. Her husband could only watch as the beasts trampled on his wife’s body for almost half an hour. The incident, not surprisingly, sparked concern and alarm across the country in areas where humans live alongside elephants.

After a month of monitoring, forestry authorities in Xishuangbanna said that the establishment of the canteen had significantly reduced the number of times elephants had gone into human areas in search of food, the report said.