A real life CoExistence herd migrating across China

Herd of elephants migrates, showcasing increasing need for CoExistence strategies across the world

This morning, a news story surfaced about a herd of elephants in South West China on a migration route which is bringing them into cities with incredibly high population densities.

Wildlife experts and local people have not encountered such a movement of elephants before. Whilst it is fascinating to see wild herds of elephants, their proximity to people carries dangers for both the herd and humans.

Since April these elephants have been on a 400 kilometre migration, highlighting the insecurity these creatures feel when their habitat shrinks due to expanding human settlements. The increasing fragmentation of their forest homes means fewer safe links between feeding grounds, forcing them into human-dominated landscapes.

As wildlife experts (including our coexistence network) work together together to safely return the herd to their habitat, they will also study the herd to understand what has triggered this movement of elephants to travel such a long distance with their young ones.

CoExistence partner and Founder of The Real Elephant Collective, Dr Tarsh Tekaekara commented: “This herd of elephants supposedly “escaped” from a nature reserve in – we’re not sure if anyone told the elephants they were imprisoned in the first place since 80% of wild elephants’ range (in India) is outside nature reserves, and they often come into cities. Why do they do this? That’s hard to answer since we can’t ask the elephants! Our best guess is that elephants are very intelligent and have learnt that humans grow lots of nutritious food. Elephants move over large distances and explore their environment, as their ancestors have always done. Coexistence is about negotiating this sharing of space.”

Headlines have been filled with negative responses to the elephants’ presence, with words like “destruction” and stories of how they have “plagued villagers” and “wrecked crops”.

The media play such a powerful role in people’s attitudes towards willdife and words like these can be damaging. These elephants are doing what elephants do – migrate, eat, and do their best to fit into strange and human-dominated landscapes. What we need to see is more strategies in place which allow this to happen and in a safe way for both humans and wildlife, and for media to be championing the sharing of space.

This news story reveals the importance of effective human-wildlife coexistence strategies and how wildlife and people are coming into closer contact in our increasingly crowded world.

Read the full article here.

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