A tea farm worker in Yunnan's southern Xishuangbanna Prefecture was reportedly killed by a group of elephants on June 30. The victim, a 51 year-old migrant worker surnamed Cao, is the second person in two months to fall victim to a passing herd of elephants in the same small village.
The most recent incident occurred at 6am in Dadugang Township (大渡岗乡), as Cao was walking to his job at a tea plantation. Details are slight, as there were no apparent witnesses, but Cao was pronounced dead by forestry police officers shortly after they responded to an emergency call from villagers living nearby.
In late April, a similar incident claimed the life of another farm worker walking along a rural road outside of Daduguang. The town sits 45 kilometers north of the city of Jinghong (景洪), and local and prefectural forestry police are currently conducting investigations into both deaths. The working presumption is that a group of 18 elephants that move between the region and neighboring Pu'er Prefecture could be to blame, as they are held responsible for at least five other deaths over the past two years.
Like many people in Dadugang this time of year, Cao — who was originally from Mojiang (墨江) — was working seasonally picking tea. Due to a government insurance fund, his family is eligible for up to 500,000 yuan in accidental death benefits. The compensation scheme has been in place for most of the past decade, designed to provide indemnities for farmers who have their crops destroyed, suffer injuries or are killed by wild elephants.
While the estimated 300 wild pachyderms of southern Yunnan are a huge tourist attraction, managing them is something of a perpetual headache for authorities. Protected under China's most stringent wildlife preservation laws, the province's elephants are permitted to wander freely through the forests of Xishuangbanna and Pu'er.
A bilateral agreement between China and Lao signed in created a cross-border sanctuary for the animals in 2009. Since then, Yunnan's government has introduced a series of 'elephant canteens', and stepped up education efforts teaching farmers how to avoid conflict with elephants. However, interactions with humans, some of them violent, have proven inevitable.
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