Human-Elephant Coexistence Project in Yunnan, China
December 2020 - Ongoing
Dashujiao Village, Yunnan, China
In 2017, a group of wild Asian elephants found their home in Dashujiao village. Initially, the villagers welcomed their arrival with open arms, but their enthusiasm soon turned to concern. The elephants, while captivating, posed significant challenges. They trampled farmlands, causing economic losses, and, more critically, posed threats to the safety of villagers, sometimes resulting in injuries.
To foster harmonious coexistence between residents and wild elephants, our team has raised a total of RMB 63,209.54 and initiated the following six activities in the area:
◎ Research to Mitigate Human-Elephant Conflict:
We have gathered globally recognized methods for preventing human-elephant conflicts, such as beekeeping, pepper deterrents, and electric fences. We are implementing these methods locally and evaluating their effectiveness.
◎ Procurement and Installation of Elephant Deterrence Facilities:
After the harvest season, wild elephants often venture into farmlands, causing economic losses and posing threats to people's lives and safety. In 2021, our students installed 90 solar-powered elephant lights to reduce the risk for local farmers frequently disturbed by wild elephants. Another effective measure is the installation of electric fences, which emit non-harmful electric pulses as a warning to elephants. To support the installation of electric fences in the village, we established the Dashujiao Village Electric Fence Fund in July 2022, raising over RMB 20,000 and assisting 21 villagers with the installation. This electric fence has significantly improved the safety of local residents. Additionally, we donated two sets of batteries to the elephant patrolling team to address rapid battery depletion in their uncrewed aerial vehicles.
◎ Public Education:
We have conducted various outreach activities to promote the harmonious coexistence of humans and elephants. We created the "Wild Elephant Village" website to share stories of Yunnan residents and local elephants, raising awareness and enhancing public understanding of human-elephant conflicts. We conducted three workshops for children to educate them about preventing encounters with wild Asian elephants and to improve their safety awareness. We also produced a video and a mural to help villagers better comprehend how to coexist with Asian elephants. Currently, we are working on designing brochures to effectively disseminate knowledge among villagers.
◎ Livelihood Development for Villagers:
Dashujiao village, situated in the mountains with limited resources and transportation options, faces challenges, especially due to elephant crop damage, resulting in low incomes for many residents. To assist villagers in enhancing their income, our students have undertaken several initiatives, including helping locals sell tea, renovating their washrooms to improve living conditions, launching a research-based travel program to promote local tourism, and donating 20 solar lamps to border guards in Yunnan. In October 2022, we initiated the "Dashujiao Village Beekeeping Project," aiming to support eight villagers in beekeeping. We have secured cooperation with the local beekeeping training company Intention, and fundraising efforts are ongoing. Furthermore, to encourage more villagers to cultivate high-value, eco-friendly tea and improve the positive image of elephants, we purchased a batch of ecological tea from villagers at higher prices and established "Yunnan Elephant Tea." This tea is sold online and offline, with all profits dedicated to welfare programs in Dashujiao village.
◎ Mapping Elephant Activity Hotspots:
Through conversations with villagers and patrollers, we have identified patterns in elephant appearances. To better understand elephant activity, we are recording this information and creating a hotspot map. Starting in October 2022, we began organizing data based on the Asian Elephant Warning Platform. Currently, we have compiled ten months' worth of early warning data.
◎ Documenting Cases of Human-Elephant Coexistence in the Village:
Over the years of living alongside elephants, many unique and meaningful stories have unfolded in Dashujiao Village. We aim to compile these stories into a Case Book to provide insight into how villagers coexist with elephants and their attitudes toward these majestic creatures. In 2022, we began organizing interview records of villagers and have completed 14 cases so far, with plans to publish a report in the coming year.