The 670,000 square meter food base — also known as "Elephants' dining hall" — has been launched in the hopes that it will help avoid conflicts between local residents and wild elephants.
Officials in southwest China last week launched a "food court" for migrating elephants, months after a herd of 15 Asian elephants trekked almost 500 kilometers across the country in search of new habitat this summer. According to Independent, the 670,000 square meter food base — also known as "Elephants' dining hall" — has been launched hoping that it will help avoid conflicts between local residents and wild elephants. Speaking to the Xinhua news agency, Cha Wei, the deputy director of Jinghong Nature Reserve Management Office, reportedly explained that the area was established with the customary tracks of wild Asian elephants in mind and that it is stocked with the food they typically enjoy.
Chinese city builds ‘food court’ for future migrating Asian elephants https://t.co/mBFcqvZV3G— South China Morning Post (@SCMPNews) September 14, 2021
This includes 38,000 banana trees and saltwater ponds so that the animals get the minerals they require as part of their diet, reports SCMP. "The project is meant to improve the quality of Asian elephants' habitat, enrich their food sources, and provide them with more to eat," Cha said. "After the completion of the project, elephants will be able to eat at the base. This can stop them from foraging in villages and damaging farmers' crops." He added that when selecting the location for the food base, they ultimately chose "the nation-owed forest where Asian elephants regularly pass by."
In Southwest #China's Yunnan Province, a 670,000 square meter base, also dubbed "elephants' dining hall" opened recently.— 吴鹏 Wu Peng (@WuPeng_MFAChina) September 13, 2021
Specializing in supplying food to #elephants, the base has a large amount of plants and five salt pools and will improve the living conditions of elephants. pic.twitter.com/oflyQY1MRa
"If provided with enough food, the elephants will not break into villages and croplands to forage, which can help resolve conflicts between local people and wild elephants," Cha said. The base is spread across three different townships in Yunnan province. The construction of the food base was reportedly launched in December last year and completed in May at the cost of $15 million. The number of Asian elephants — which are a Grade-1 species of wild animal under China's priority conservation — is said to have increased in Jinghong from 85 at the end of the last century to 185, resulting in an overlap in living area between elephants and local residents.
Some good news for #Friyay!— Elephant Family (@elephantfamily) September 17, 2021
A special 'dining hall' supplying food to #elephants in Southwest China's Yunnan Province opened to help resolve conflicts between local residents & wild elephants as they have been breaking into croplands for lack of food.https://t.co/AXhFyBW26e pic.twitter.com/1rj1tYp1y8
According to BBC, a herd of 15 elephants entered the periphery of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwest China, in June this year after traveling nearly 500km in search of new habitat. The cities of Kunming and Yuxi deployed almost 700 police and emergency workers to divert the animals onto a safe path while armed with 10 tonnes of corn, pineapples, and other food. The herd is believed to have started its journey from the Mengyangzi Nature Reserve in Xishuangbanna in March last year and while there were thought to be 17 elephants initially, two appeared to turn back when reaching Mojiang county.
Wild elephants in Yunnan have completely returned to their traditional habitats. All the way to play, but the lovely elephant herd finally home ~ congratulations!#elephants #China pic.twitter.com/aanCV93jJQ— Hazel (@LeeHazel13) September 10, 2021
However, other reports claim there were 16 originally and that the birth of a calf in December helped the number back to 15 once the two abandoned the trek. Experts predict that the herd that returned home last month is "highly likely" to hit the road again in the future. "Elephants have no sense of boundaries, nor do they know the boundary of a [human defined] natural reserve," said Shen Qingzhong, an expert with the management bureau of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve. "Attracted by food or others, they are highly likely to migrate again."
China Vagabond Elephants - Herd of 15 on a mammoth 500km trek reaches Kunming.— Sasha Scheherzade (@SashaScheherzad) August 10, 2021
Unclear why they left their Myanmar natural sanctuary, it is believed the endangered herd of Asian Elephants could be searching for a new home in the North of China.https://t.co/BXLbGWAigq pic.twitter.com/Tl6WUWX5Nw
Although many on social media made light of the herd's lengthy adventure, experts warned that there are serious issues at play. Li Zhongyuan, a Xishuangbanna forestry official, said that the traditional diet of the elephants had depleted in their habitat due to the planting of rubber and other cash crops, forcing the animals to change to agricultural crops like corn and sugar cane. The official added there could be similar treks if the habitat is reduced further.