In order to cut back on the conflicts between humans and elephants, Chinese wildlife authorities have constructed a massive “food court” along established elephant migratory routes.
Stocked with five salty ponds, and many different kinds of plants that can satisfy their dietary needs, the elephant food court of Jinghong Nature Reserve spans 670,000 square meters, the same size as Porche’s Stuttgart car assembly plant, or around 62 European football fields.
Elephants roam vast distances every year, whether they live in China, India, or Africa. They have no concept of land ownership or borders, and can often bring economic ruin to any unlucky farmer whose fields are close at hand when an elephant determines it’s time for lunch.
Since the end of the last century, Asian elephants in Jinghong have enjoyed protected status, and have grown in number from 85 to 185. This has led to greater conflict with locals during migrations.
The food court was started last December and finished in May, and its position in a national forest reserve was cleverly selected to ensure they would pass it every year during migration. The “food base,” or “dining hall” as Cha Wei, deputy director of Jinghong Reserve, described it is meant to eliminate the need for the pachyderms to raid nearby farms.
“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,” Mr. Cha was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.
Last year 14 elephants trekked 500 kilometers during a migratory period that lasted 17 months, report Xinhua.
They’ve now returned to their traditional habitat of Mojiang County in Yunnan where all, including a calf born along the way, are stable and accounted for.