China’s Elephants

In our 19th Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas #ElephantProfessional lecture, Becky Shu Chen uncovered the much hidden population of the 300 remaining elephants inside China.

Unlike the many countries where people have to allocate resources for anti-trafficking and anti-poaching, China, surprisingly, does not have to worry much about their wild elephants being the target of a smuggling ring.

“Back in that time, I thought elephants were so cool and they must be friendly,” recalled Chen.

A government-produced video showing the damage made by wild Asian elephants. Screenshot from Chen’s lecture.

Chen’s attitude towards elephants echoed that of the local villagers, who whole-heartedly cherish and worship the elephants to the extent that they lack the awareness of their own safety. The government even had to make promotional videos to educate people about the potential danger of the elephants.

Despite the elephant’s godly status, there is still an increasing rate of human-elephant conflict in China.

According to Chen, when China started planting rubber trees in the 1980s, it shifted the villagers’ clock. They started going to the forest in the morning and around sunset, which is also the time when the elephants are active.

In response to the increasing encounter rate between humans and elephants, Chen and others started looking for solutions.


Collaboration is key

One of the projects that Chen participated was CECE, short for Conservation and Education of Chinese Elephants. What is unconventional about CECE is the emphasis on the collaboration across sector and boundary, according to Chen.

A study on the elephant’s migration route in the Shangyong Sub-reserve. Screenshot from Chen’s lecture.

Chen argued that transboundary conservation is exceptionally important for the large elephant population in Xishuangbanna, which essentially borders Myanmar and Laos. And the joint effort between countries will also help preserve other threatened species such as the Yangtze finless porpoise and Chinese giant salamander.

The Elephant Books. Screenshot from Chen’s lecture.

And in another project called We Care, Chen cooperated with a book shop in order to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public, as well as the media perhaps.

Different stakeholders have different objectives, such as villagers’ safety, forest protection and human-elephant coexistence.

And the bright future lies in the union of all of these stakeholders, believed Chen.

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily represent Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.