Wild elephants are awe-inspiring — even if they’re trying to kill you, as I discovered in 2004. At the time I was studying how poachers and loggers threaten native mammals in Africa’s Congo Basin. I was sneaking up on a herd of forest elephants when they suddenly charged, rushing at me like enraged, out-of-control bulldozers. With the angry animals hot on my heels, I barely escaped by diving into a tangle of vines, shuddering with fear but oddly enthralled by it all, too. Many residents of southern China must be feeling similarly. A herd of 15 Asian elephants, led by adult females, departed last year from Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, near China’s border with Myanmar and Laos. Since then they’ve travelled about 500 kilometres northward, and are now approaching the bustling city of Kunming and its seven million inhabitants. Herd of elephants sleeping. China Central Television (CCTV) No one knows exactly where the elephants are going, or why. But two things are clear: the elephants were probably struggling to survive in their native habitat, and Chinese efforts to save the elephants clash with the nation’s aggressive strategies of investment and global development. Hope for the homeless As I’ve seen elsewhere, in Africa and Southeast Asia, hungry wild elephants can severely damage human crops, flattening gardens and orchards in their quest for a free meal. During their sojourn in China, the behemoths — which can weigh over five tonnes as adults (more than three cars) — have indeed been helping themselves…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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