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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Elephant herd walking miles in China .. ..


I love elephants and have stood near them for hours admiring them – a few trips to Kerala, provided good opportunity for photographing some beautifully majestic tuskers .. .. longing for another opportunity ! – have never seen an elephant sleeping though !

Animals and birds move from one place to another – migration ! .. ..  Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement, often north and south along a flyway between breeding and wintering grounds, undertaken by many species of birds. Migration, which carries high costs in predation and mortality, including from hunting by humans, is driven primarily by availability of food. The Arctic Tern holds the long-distance migration record for birds, travelling between Arctic breeding grounds and the Antarctic each year. The timing of migration is controlled primarily by changes in day length. Migrating birds navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth's magnetic field, and probably also mental maps.

Promoted as one of nature’s greatest spectacles, the annual migration draws  millions of tourists to the African country annually.  The annual migration consists of wildebeest, zebra, eland and gazelle.  More than one million wildebeest, 500,000 gazelle, and 200,000 zebras migrate in a clockwise hunt for greener pastures across the plains of Africa.  During this time,  huge herbivore herds, which have been grazing in Masai Mara Reserve of Kenya, make the trip south to Serengeti Park of Tanzania.  This post is on ‘Elephants’ –  moving miles away from their place in China, taking internet by storm.

In 1930, as many as 10 million wild elephants roamed huge swaths of the African continent. But decades of poaching and conflict have since decimated African elephant populations. In 2016, experts estimated that Africa’s elephant population had dropped by 111,000 elephants in the span of a decade. Today, there are just 415,000 elephants across Africa. While elephant poaching is trending downward, with significant declines in East Africa, poaching continues to steer the species dangerously nearer to extinction. Five years ago, researchers in Africa undertook a mammoth task: counting the continent’s elephants.  The Great Elephant Census spanned 18 countries and 295,000 miles, making it the largest, most comprehensive survey of African elephants ever. But the results, released in 2016, were sobering: Just 352,271 savanna elephants were found across their current range—a 30% drop in seven years. 

Botswana is currently home to more elephants than any other African country, and southern Africa remains a stronghold for 293,000, or 70%, of the estimated remaining African elephants.  China has only about 300 wild elephants, mainly in the south of Yunnan province. Scientists say this is the furthest any of the wild elephants there have travelled from the habitat. – it is all about a herd of wild elephants that have attracted global attention for their year-long trek through China has resumed walking after resting for a spell in a forest. The herd of 15 wild Asian elephants has covered a 500km stretch on a journey that began over a year ago when they left their designated elephant protection zone in Xishuangbanna, near China’s border with Myanmar.

They are believed to be headed northwest, though the reason behind this migration is unknown. The group took a break on Monday, during which they were captured sleeping together in a patch of forest on the outskirts of southwest China’s Kunming. The provincial forest fire brigade has released the drone camera footage. Tracking teams are currently working around the clock to monitor their movements. More than 400 emergency response personnel have also been deployed. The herd is attracting growing attention now thanks in part to the stop-start nature of its journey. The animals are said to have arrived in Pu’er in Yunnan in November, where a female elephant gave birth to a baby and settled in place for five months before starting to walk again on 16 April.

Chen Fei, director of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration’s Asian Elephant Research Centre, said they were watching closely to see if the herd resumes its northward trajectory, and would evacuate villages if necessary. Wildlife experts are attempting to understand the possible reasons behind this unusual activity from the elephants. It is believed that the space available for China’s last remaining native elephant community has gradually shrunk over the years, with the tropical forests of Xishuangbanna replaced with banana, tea or rubber plantations or used to plant lucrative raw materials for traditional Chinese medicine.

The photos are quite attractive - China's famous herd of wandering elephants have stopped for a well-earned rest after a record 300-mile trek across the country following their escape from a nature reserve. The 15-strong group of wild Asian elephants has been wandering towards the city of Kunming, in Yunnan province, since April 16 when they broke out of a nature reserve in Xishuangbanna Dai prefecture. They are now in the countryside in the Xinyang Township, around 55 miles south-west of Kunming, and were spotted looking exhausted as the group lay down in a forest with their legs and trunks sprawled out over the ground.  The herd appear to be sleeping in a pyramid shape as one baby elephant can be seen clinging onto an adult's leg whilst one rests its trunk on another.  The elephants have come as close as two miles from the southern-most suburbs of regional capital Kunming, sparking fears they could enter the city and cause chaos.

Roads have been blocked using lorries while 18 tons of pineapples and corn have been scattered in an attempt to lead the elephants away from the city's Jinning district. During their epic journey, the elephants have been caught at night trotting down urban streets by security cameras, filmed constantly from the air by more than a dozen drones and followed by those seeking to minimise damage and keep both pachyderms and people out of harm's way. But the wild animals caused have caused mayhem by walking down urban roads and sticking their trunks through residential windows in Kunming, despite officials' efforts to divert them away from the populated southwestern city of seven million people. They have raided farms for food and water, visited a car dealership and even showed up at a retirement home, where they poked their trunks into some of the rooms, prompting one elderly man to hide under his bed. 

              Since beginning their epic journey, the elephants have wandered the streets, broke into barns and munched their way through farmland, causing an estimated 6.8 million yuan ($1.1 million) worth of damage. Elephants are a protected species in China, meaning the herd will not be destroyed, while wildlife officers are also keen to avoid using tranquilizers on the infants.  The adventures of the huge mammals have captivated the nation, with hundreds of millions taking to social media to discuss their journey. Animal experts told Xinhua news agency that it is unclear what has motivated the elephants' migration, which is the longest ever recorded in China. But they said it is possible that the pack leader 'lacks experience and led the whole group astray.'

The initial herd consisted of 16 elephants, but two of them turned around during the trek and went home. A calf was then born during the walk, bringing the total to its current 15. Observers say the group now consists of six adult females, three adult males, three juveniles and three calves of unknown sex.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th June 2021.

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