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Yunnan elephants evoke story-telling by neighbors

Updated:2021-06-11 19:59:50   

The 15 Yunnan elephants have recently become a net sensation, inviting in international attention. The Asian elephant is seen in a total of 13 countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and others.

Informed of the northbound tour by Yunnan elephants, the elephant fans from Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar shared their hometown stories on elephant protection.

Viang Sak wishes safety for man, elephant 

Shortly after the northbound exodus by elephants, Viang Sak, head of the protection office of the Laotian Phongsaly department of forest and agriculture, received a phone call from his peer in Jinghong City, south Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna prefecture.

The Chinese side asked Viang Sak if the elephant herd had been spotted in Laos. Sharing rivers and mountains, China and Laos have seen frequent cross-border tours by elephants over the years.

“According to our observation, the migrating group is not elephants from Laos, but the ones native to Xishuangbanna,” said Viang Sak on the phone.

Viang Sak has worked in the Lao border province of Phongsaly for 30 plus years, quite experienced in cross-border conservation of wild animals. Before the Covid outbreak, he had annual study tours in Jinghong for Chinese practices in protecting the Asian elephants.

Viang recalled that Laos and China set up the Shangyong-Namha joint protected area for bio-diversity in 2009, building up a green corridor for wild animals to have free cross-border tours. Thanks to the joint China-Laos efforts, poaching and hunting by border folks lessened, while the wild-elephant population in the area increased.

Viang added that Laos minimized human interference into the Asian elephants' life, dedicating certain areas for their activities and then leaving them alone. The villages near the elephant habitats are equipped with sound lighting facilities to prevent folks from elephant harms at night. “As an Asian-elephant protector, safety for man and elephant is my sole wish.”

Cambodia unloads burden of working elephants

In the past, it was common to see “elephant rides” in Cambodia, where elephants carry sightseers at tourist attractions. To make the ride comfortable and safe, mahouts equipped palanquins on elephants’ backs, which looked like a heavy turtle shell.

Through efforts of all parties in recent years, the working elephants’burdens were gradually unloaded in the tourist attractions in Cambodia.

In 2020, the tour site, Angkor Wat, shut down “elephant rides” comprehensively, but tourists could watch and take photos in breeding and conservation area.

In a elephant conservation area in Ratanakiri province, there live many elephants protected by the project. In terms of the life situation of these elephants, we talked with Nhek Sreyleakthe, a Cambodian journalist.

“The stuff working in conservation area is very professional, and they are familiar with the habitual nature of elephants,” said Nhek Sreyleak. She witnessed the scenes what caregiver Miyin did for elephants: health checking, thorns pulling and bathing elephants happily in the river.

Minyin has followed his father to get training and take care of elephants since he was 15, and he has been doing this for more than 20 years. Miyin hopes that more Cambodian youngsters will join the team of protecting and rescuing elephants. Nhek Sreyleak also believes more working elephants will be set free and return to nature again.

Keywords:   Yunnan elephants neighbor countries