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Wild elephants rampaging through villages in search of food and water

By : China Daily|Updated: 2010-03-30

KUNMING - The severe drought in Southwest China is affecting not only local residents, but also a wide range of animals in the region's forests and countryside.

In Xishuangbanna, a Dai ethnic group autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province, a group of wild elephants have recently been rampaging through the forests towards villages to look for water and food.

"The elephants drank a lot of water in the creek, which runs through our village. It is almost drained," said Yang Xiong, 38, a resident of Jinghong village.

"Now we have a big problem with our drinking water."

The starved herd also attacked the village for bananas and corn supplies, Yang said.

Wild elephants in the area normally run down the hills to forage for food in the middle of February, said Yang Yunzhong, an administrative officer of Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve.

However, the hungry herds appeared half a month earlier this year, Yang said.

At Tianba village, foot prints of elephants and broken tree branches can be seen everywhere.

Villager Yang Xiaolao said wild elephants have been visiting the fields day and night for food, as the drought has affected the natural food supply in the forests.

"Elephants eat bamboo, while red deer and rabbits eat grass, but without rain, there is no grass and the bamboo leaves turned yellow," said village head Yang Shiqiang, adding that the elephants ate up the corn on at least 0.17 hectares of his farmland and leveled other crops.

"About a dozen elephants came to our village in the early morning on Friday," Yang said. "I called on all the male villagers to drive the animals away with drums."

The pigpen of a village was destroyed and 10 rubber trees behind the village were knocked down, the villagers said.

"The revenue from the tea trees and other cash crops has already been affected by the drought. The losses caused by the elephants will only make things worse," he said.

Up to 300 elephas maximus, also known as Asian elephants, are reportedly in Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve. The elephants are known for their large appetites and are each able to eat 200 kg of food a day.

Other animals have also been adversely affected by the dry spell.

Wang Zhaorong, an official of the Black-necked Crane Reservation Park in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, said the park's cranes had migrated to the north earlier this year due to the abnormal temperatures - up to 6 C higher than the average temperature.

The water level at the Dahaizi reservoir in the park has dropped to less than a meter from its regular five meters.

Long Yongchen, the chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, a worldwide conservation organization, said the drought would probably endanger amphibians in the area and cause high fatalities in wildlife across the region.

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