Wild elephants which have been migrating in southwest China’s Yunnan province cross the
Yuanjiang River. (Photo/Yunnan.cn)
On the evening of August 8, 14 wild elephants which had been migrating northward in
southwest China’s Yunnan province crossed the Yuanjiang River safely and continued to head
south, according to a press conference held recently in Kunming city, capital city of Yunnan.
The elephant herd is now in a wood near Honghe subdistrict, Yuanjiang county, Yuxi city of
Yunnan, which is 26 kilometers away from Mojiang county, Pu’er city of the province.
This means that all the original 15 Asian elephants heading north, including one male
separated from the herd that was returned to their original habitat in a nature reserve in
Yunnan’s Xishuangbannan Dai autonomous prefecture on July 7, have been on their way
According to Wan Yong, who heads the headquarters in charge of monitoring the migrating
elephants, these elephants left their original habitat in March 2020. In July 2020, the herd
entered Pu’er city. Then on April 16, 2021, they wandered into Yuanjiang county, Yuxi city of
Since then, the herd has trekked more than 1,300 kilometers and over 110 days through eight
county-level regions under Yuxi city, Hani and Yi autonomous prefecture and Kunming city
In response to the migrating elephants, Yunnan has evacuated residents and promoted claims
settlement regarding relevant damages while monitoring the elephants, making efforts to
ensure the safety of both residents along the route as well as the animals.
As of August 8, Yunnan province had dispatched over 25,000 police officers and relevant
staff members, deployed 973 drones and over 15,000 vehicles to monitor and guide the
migrating elephants. Meanwhile, the province had evacuated more than 150,000 residents to
avoid conflicts between them and the migrating elephant herd and provided nearly 180 tons of
food for the herd, pointed out Wan, who is also head of the forestry and grassland bureau of
Wildlife public liability insurance companies had received 1,501 cases of declaration of losses
caused by the migrating elephants, and assessed the losses at about 5.13 million yuan (about
$790,548). They have completed 939 claims and redeemed insurance premiums of over 2.16
million yuan, advancing insurance work in an orderly manner.
In just a few days, staff members of the headquarters in charge of monitoring the migrating
elephants walked along the 76-kilometer-riverway of the Yuanjiang River and finally found
the best route for the elephant herd to cross the river based on its location and the potential
risks and dangers in river-crossing. They decided to guide the elephant herd to an old bridge
near the Yuanjiang entrance toll station of Kunming-Mohan Expressway, helping them
overcome the biggest obstacle on their way back south, according to Yang Yingyong, who has
been in charge of safety precautions and emergency response for the migrating elephants in
Although the elephant herd has crossed the Yuanjiang River safely, relevant safety
precautions and emergency response work will continue until the elephants enter their habitat
in Mojiang county, where they will be put under regular management by Pu’er city and
Xishuangbannan Dai autonomous prefecture, Wan noted.
The population of Asian elephants in Yunnan has grown to over 300 from about 150 in 1978.
As of the end of 2020, the home ranges of Asian elephants have expanded to 55 townships in
11 county-level regions of three cities and prefectures of Yunnan, many are outside the nature
“Next, we will gather pace in building a national park for Asian elephants and improving their
habitats, striving to enable human beings and elephants to live together in harmony,” Wan
Since the beginning of the migration, many experts and technicians in wildlife, information
communication, and other fields have joined the efforts to protect the herd and local residents
and help with the migration. They have conducted research while applying research findings
in their work, and preserved massive data from scientific research, monitoring and early
warning, and emergency response in the whole process, said Chen Fei, director of the Asian
elephant research center under the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China
as well as a member of the expert team established for the migrating elephants.
The headquarters have creatively and gently intervened in the migration by predicting the
elephants’ migration routes, conducting security control, and attracting them with food, which
can be helpful for alleviating “human-elephant conflict” and even “human-animal conflict” in
the future, Chen pointed out.