A woman in Xishaungbanna was trampled to death Tuesday by a wild elephant. Li Lianfen (李莲芬) was collecting forage for her pigs in a watermelon field when at least one elephant attacked and killed her. Several other villagers hid under a bridge when they heard the elephants approaching but were unaware Li remained in the fields, Yunnan Net is reporting.
Nine other villagers spent the night in a culvert hiding from the elephants. When they emerged the next morning they found Li dead and their tractor and fields destroyed. The farmers told Yunnan Net that elephants first began to venture onto their land in late October.
The field where the attack occurred is located near the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve (西双版纳国家级自然保护区), a system of interlinked protected areas spanning 2,410 square kilometers. The conglomeration of reserves includes one jointly established by China and Laos in 2009 to provide refuge for large animals such as elephants and tigers.
Wild elephants in Yunnan, taxonomically known as Elephas maximus indicus, are a relatively small population. It is estimated that fewer than 250 of the creatures live in the province, primarily in nature reserves. Smaller than their African relatives, Asian bull elephants can still weigh 5,000 kilograms.
Females of the species are somewhat smaller and can grow to weigh 4,000 kilograms. Asian elephants often live in herds of ten or more and each animal needs to eat 300 kilograms of food each day. Because of fluctuations in the availability of seasonal food, individual wild elephants require overlapping ranges of between 100 and 300 square kilometers.
The Chinese government reports that elephant populations in Yunnan are on the rise despite a general lack of habitat. Competition for food and territory between the animals themselves, as well as with humans, has led to increased aggression among elephants everywhere in the world.
Tuesday's attack was the first of its kind this year. However, confrontations between humans and elephants are not entirely rare in southern Yunnan. Last November a man was killed by a wild elephant, and the animals have reportedly attacked 140 people in Yunnan over the past 20 years.
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