China's elephants are running out of room to roam

Deep in the forests of China's Yunnan province, wild elephants are seeking more room to roam.

Thanks to herd rehabilitation efforts, the number of elephants in the region has more than doubled over the past two decades.

But now, the expansion of farming and construction in the area threatens to undo that progress.

The elephants' habitats have dwindled by 40% in that same amount of time, and they're quickly running out of space to live.

Qin Ganglin is a protection officer at the Wild Elephant Valley.

"There are almost 100 elephants around Jingna county. They were in farmers' land. In my colleague's village, 21 elephants ruined dragon fruit and mango. There are too many elephants."

The typically elusive elephants became a media sensation last month,

when a herd of over a dozen migrated over 300 miles north to the provincial capital of Kunming.

Zhou Jinfeng, who works at a local environmental NGO, suspects the elephants left due to the increasing fragmentation of their habitat.

"In their current habitat, due to the planting of rubber trees, more attention being given to trees than grass and scrubs that are part of elephants' natural habitats; construction, such as dams; and also native residents who recently switched to growing rubber trees from crops thanks to the increasing prices of rubber, all these factors changed the elephants' habitat."

China's National Forestry and Grassland Commission, which is responsible for habitat protection, did not respond to requests for comment.

But state news agency Xinhua said this week that "preparatory work" has already begun to establish a national park in Yunnan to improve conditions for the elephants.

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