他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来
旅游

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

2021年07月22日 18:40:29
来源:凤凰网旅游

Epic journey of Asian elephant family

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

A family of wild elephants headed north from their home in southwest China on April 16, sparking an odyssey that has captured the imagination of people in China and become a global news event.

The 16 Asian elephants left their traditional habitat in Xishuangbanna and arrived in the Yuxi area, near Kunming. It was the first time a wild Asian elephant had walked outside Xishuangbanna, Lincang or Pu'er .

The now famous elephant herd had been living in Mengyang, where Wang Bin works. He is the deputy director of the Mengyang Management and Conservation Office of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve.

Wildlife protection has dominated Wang’s life for nearly 17 years. Due to his familiarity with the living habits of the elephants, on May 27 Wang was invited to join an Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve expert panel by the Yunnan Provincial Forestry and Grass Bureau to assist the local government in monitoring and following the wild elephants. In the course of his work,he was touched by the people's enthusiasm for the giant mammals. Locals came out to see the animals, but people also traveled from other Chinese provinces to take a closer look. After 19 days of intense monitoring work, Wang and his colleagues completed their job. One expert remained and kept following the elephants; the others returned to Xishuangbanna.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

"This elephant family is known as ‘short-nosed’ because their noses are shorter than those of other elephants. There are 16 elephants. They lived in the Mengyang area of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, where my colleagues and I often saw them at the Wild Elephant Valley monitoring point. The most notable feature of the family is that they’re active, but gentle and non-aggressive. The baby elephants in the herd are naughty and cute. They started migrating in March last year. At first, they just moved around Pu'er area, then they went north in April this year, passing through Shiping and now arriving at Yuxi,” Wang said excitedly to IfengTravel.

Chinese authorities deployed drones and mobilized hundreds of people to help monitor the herd's movements and prevent the elephants from causing trouble, Newsweek reported on June 21.

In order to stop the elephants from entering heavily-populated areas, Wang and his colleagues arranged for several trucks to place nearly two tonnes of food along the herd’s expected route every day. Elephants love to eat green corn, pineapples and bananas, but initially they rejected their favorite foods. But Wang and his colleagues persevered. "Maybe the elephants felt our kindness, and a few days later they started eating the food and moving northwest and southwest, far away from the city,” he said. A wave of relief washed over Wang.

The owners of the rainforest

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

For the short-nosed family, home is the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan, located on the southwestern border of China. It is the largest tropical primitive forest area in China, and is composed of five sub-reserves —Mengyang, Menglun, Mengla, Shangyong, and Mangao – with a total area of about 242,500 hectares, covering 12.68% of the entire prefecture. There are extremely rich biological resources and the largest number of wild Asian elephants in China. Thanks to conservation projects, the wild Asian elephant population has been sheltered. The wandering short-nosed family comes from Mengyang, which is the largest sub-reserve, covering an area of about 100,000 hectares.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

Wang Bin, 41, wearing a dark green uniform, sits in his office in Mengyang Town, searching for the latest news about the elephant herd on his computer.

"The first time I saw an Asian elephant I was still in high school. I visited Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley and saw the behemoths for the first time. They walked slowly, with elegance and power. Sometimes their roar was low, sometimes high. I was immediately fascinated by them!"

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

For Wang, born in Zhaotong city, the seed of a dream was planted. He decided he would return someday.

He chose to study animal conservation at university, and after graduation he was assigned to Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve. His dream became reality.

Since starting work at Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve Management Bureau in 2004, daily field patrols and monitoring have been Wang’s favorite duties. He has monitored the activities of elephants in the wild many times and already has a lifetime of stories to tell.

Most areas of the reserve are made up of uninhabited and dangerous jungle. Wang and his colleagues sometimes stay in the wild for several days, eating dry food and sleeping in tents. There are many dangers lurking outside their canvas covers, from elephants, black bears and boars to snakes and huge wasps.

“Poisonous insects like leeches and mosquitoes are very common to us. A colleague was once attacked by a black bear while patrolling in the wild, causing serious injuries to his butt. Fortunately, with the help of other observers and rangers, he got away and received treatment,” Wang Bin recalled.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

It was in 2005 that Wang had his first close encounter with wild Asian elephants. During a routine patrol in Shangyong sub-reserve, he and six observers entered some dense woods. As they approached the river, a scream came from the nearby bushes. Wang panicked. He looked back and saw that the guide from the Hani tribe had already run into the river. Only then did he realize what had happened, and he hurried into the water.

"What we learned was that it was a roar from a female elephant who had just experienced dystocia and lost her baby. The sound was filled with anger and sadness, and came from only 10 meters away. I can't describe to you what I felt at that moment, I just remember that it was like an earthquake. I had no time to think and ran instinctively until I reached the other side of the river. My heart was beating violently." Wang and his colleagues returned to the scene a week later, to find the remains of a decomposed baby elephant. The experience gave Wang a deeper understanding of wild Asian elephants. He realized they have similar emotions to humans, feeling a sense of loss after the death of their loved ones. They are the owners of the rainforest. Wang still remembers and abides by a piece of advice given to him by a veteran of forest protection: people must respect nature and wildlife.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

After that incident, Wang and his colleagues closely monitored the activities of Asian elephants in the wild. They carefully recorded the time and place of each spotting, took pictures of the herd, and also assisted scientific institutions with research.

When Wang saw a small baby elephant lying with its mother during their lunch break, he felt deeply moved. "Elephant moms often take their babies to forage and play in the woods. After the meal, kids will bathe in the river and play with each other. They are just as cute as children.”

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

Wang regards the elephant as a magical creature, full of human touch and spirituality, not only boasting a good memory, but also able to express gratitude to the humans who help them. In the wild, he and his colleagues once found an elephant trapped in a water storage pit which had been dug by villagers. Someone hurriedly sent an excavator to flatten the edge of the pit, and, finally, the animal was rescued. But the wild elephant did not run away immediately. It turned back and pushed its head against the big shovel of the excavator, seemingly saying thank you.

Another rescue operation impressed Wang Bin. It was in Mengla on the China-Laos border in 2007. A wild elephant named “Pingping", whose butt was wounded during a fight, was dying. A rescue team consisting of police, elephant experts and doctors had to anaesthetize Pingping in order to transport him to a rescue center in Wild Elephant Valley. To ease pressure on Pingping’s heart during the deep sleep, Wang Bin and his colleagues woke the elephant at regular intervals. It was the first time Wang had come into physical contact with a wild elephant. When touching the boy’s rough skin, he felt a slow and firm heartbeat. Looking straight into his large eyes when they occasionally opened, Wang felt a connection. To his delight, Pingping quickly recovered after undergoing an operation.

Villagers living in harmony with elephants

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

On top of his daily patrols, Wang Bin is also tasked with advocating for wildlife conservation in the reserve’s villages. Every year, in order to enhance awareness of wildlife protection and danger among local villagers, he and his colleagues go to every village to conduct safety education, distribute safety manuals to the villagers, and cooperate with environmental groups to carry out safety popularization courses in local schools. "Since there are many villages in the reserve, the activities of wild elephants affect the daily lives of the villagers, and sometimes cause unexpected incidents and property damage. The villagers have lived there for a long time. Their feelings for the animals swing between love and fear. Wild elephants often trample villagers’ crop fields as they look for food, and so some migrant workers will come to see them – but this has led to many accidental injuries."

An elephant can run at about 40 kilometers an hour to humans’ 25 kilometers per hour. There’s almost no chance of defeating an elephant in a race. Wang Bin once received a call from villagers asking for help. When he arrived, he found that an elephant was tossing a shattered motorcycle around like a toy. The quivering driver had hidden in a highway culvert. Wang helped him into his car, only to see the angry elephant stomping towards them. He had to reverse quickly down the narrow trail to break free from the furious animal. Recalling that moment of drama, his heart still thumps.

Elephants are very smart; Wang once saw one climbing over a two-meter-high railing. He believes elephants should not be driven away or provoked, and face-to-face clashes must be absolutely avoided.

When elephants appear around a village, they activate an infrared alarm system. The village’s electronic warning signs are displayed immediately, and a broadcast immediately reminds everyone not to go out. Elephants that frequently cause accidents are anesthetized and sent to the elephant rescue center, which has a warning effect on smart elephants.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

In order to reduce human-elephant conflicts, Wang and his colleagues carry out habitat transformation and restoration work. “We transformed the farmland of some of the villagers who had moved out into a food source for elephants, planting corn, bamboo, plantains and other crops that elephants love to eat. At present, our elephant canteen base construction project has achieved some positive results. Elephants regularly come to the base for food, and that reduces intrusions into inhabited areas."

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

From 170 to 300

As the flagship species in the tropical rainforest, the wild Asian elephant has irreplaceable significance for the natural environment and human beings.

Elephants are known as "engineers in the rain forest." The elephant road formed during their migration is a vital passage for other animals in the forest, their dung brings fertilizer to the plants, and their huge footprints become a paradise for insects and plankton.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

Thanks to the efforts of Wang Bin and his colleagues, incidents of human-elephant conflict in the reserve have been significantly reduced, poaching no longer occurs, and the population safety of wild Asian elephants has been guaranteed. In addition, elephants have no natural enemies, which means the population of wild Asian elephants continues to increase. According to Wang Bin’s observations and statistics, there are currently about 70-90 wild Asian elephants living in the Mengyang sub-reserve, and the number of wild Asian elephants in China has increased from over 170 in the early 1980s to more than 300 today.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

Wang Bin believes the migrating Asian elephant herd may have left its familiar habitat and wandered to places humans live because of improvements in the tropical rainforest ecological environment in Xishuangbanna over recent years.

Forest coverage in the reserve has increased from 88% in the 1980s to more than 95% now, simplifying the original forest ecosystem composed of tall trees, shrubs, and grasslands. The area is almost entirely occupied by tall trees, so there is less easy-to-reach grass to eat. With the rise in the population of Asian elephants, the demand for food is also increasing. Sometimes they must leave the dense forest to seek nourishment.

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

"My feelings for Asian elephants are complicated. It is our duty to protect them, so we feel relieved to see them living well. If we find that an elephant has died, even if it is an elderly elephant, we will be very sad. But if elephants cause human deaths or suffering, it is very painful." Wang Bin said.

A few years ago, one of Wang’s colleagues was killed by an elephant. In this land, human beings and elephants have long fought for living space. Such a predicament causes all the people working in the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve to consider a dilemma. "People need to survive,” he said, “but so do elephants."

他在北漂大象的家乡等待它们归来

Wang Bin hopes that the government will continue to support the conservation of wild Asian elephant. Establishing a conservation-themed national park and coordinating all resources that can be deployed in the reserve to restore the habitat of Asian elephants are important options. A comprehensive protection area will eventually be formed, allowing Asian elephants to obtain sufficient food and adequate living space. At the same time, the government could work to develop wildlife-themed sightseeing tours, encouraging more people to participate in environmental protection and public welfare, benefiting local people financially, eventually achieving ecological and harmonious development. According to a National Geographic article, ”the current efforts – food baiting and fencing – are all short-term. For many, however, the real question is how to create a sustainable long-term solution for the elephants."

The good news is that the elephant herd is already on its way home. The journey isn’t going entirely smoothly, but Wang Bin is still very optimistic about their future. He believes that the elephants will return to their home in the reserve one day.

Just before going to press, a male elephant that strayed away from the wandering herd was anaesthetized and sent back to his forest home in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve,southwest China's Yunnan Province, local authorities said.

Q&A

Q: travel.ifeng.com

A: Bao Mingwei, an elephant vet from Asia Elephant Breeding and Rescue Center of Yunnan in China

Q: If the elephants migrating northward are fed all the way, will they get diabetes? Won’t they become dependent?

A: At present, the foraging behavior of these migrating wild elephants is considered normal. The main source of food comes from wild growing plants that they instinctively search for, while artificial foraging, which is used to guide them to mountain forests, only accounts for a small part. Their daily food intake also contains a lot of sugar, so they will not get sick from feeding.

Q: Might the elephants get homesick, like people?

A: Elephants have very good memories. Since they are more familiar with the environment of the tropical rainforest and there are familiar elephant herds in their hometowns – not all elephants have migrated out – they should definitely miss companions and their homes over time. This is similar to our human emotions.

Q: The images of elephants napping in the wild really excite people. Do elephants take a nap every day? How long do they need to sleep a day?

A: Elephants are large and spend most of their time searching for food. Therefore, elephants may only sleep for a few hours a day. However, once there are baby elephants in the herd, break time will be greatly increased, because the little guys like to be lazy, especially at noon, they will sleep more. Due to their large size, elephants usually lie down on one side after a while to prevent pressure on the heart.

Q: If elephants arrive in an unfamiliar place, how do they adapt to the new environment? When will they go home?

A: For the elephant family, this trip to the north was very difficult. Fortunately, the temperature in Yunnan is now mild, so they are still comfortable in the new environment. Their daily foraging won't be much affected, but the surrounding areas are unfamiliar. As long as there are forests for hiding, elephants can continue to migrate, and they may not return until the temperature gets colder later this year. However, everything is still uncertain, so we need further monitoring and observation. We hope that the elephants can safely return to Xishuangbanna, where the climate and rainforest are most suitable for them to live for a long time.

Q: How do elephants express sadness or anger?

A: When elephants are angry, they yell like a human, make a very loud noise, use their nose to break the branches of nearby trees, and prick up their ears. If they encounter other people and animals, they take up an attacking posture, scratch the soil with their big feet, pretend to sprint, and pace back and forth.

Q: How do elephants behave when they are happy?

A: When they are happy, the sound they make is gentle, full of magnetism and charisma, their ears naturally swing back and forth like a fan, their body movements are slow and steady, and they might interact with the body of a nearby elephant with their nose.

Q: Who's in charge in an elephant family?

A: Elephants live in a matrilineal society, so an adult female elephant, just like a grandmother, mother or sister in our human family, makes the decisions. The matriarch of the family usually trails behind, she represents leadership and safety.

Q: Why do adult male elephants leave the group to live alone?

A: In an elephant family, since the mother has the final say, male elephants usually choose to leave their group when they reach adulthood, seek other herds to interact with, and find mates. This can prevent inbreeding, and promotes gene communication between populations.

Q: It is said that elephants are foodies. How much food can they eat in a day? What is their favorite food?

A: An adult wild Asian elephant eats about 8% of its body weight every day, so a three-tonne adult elephant needs about 240 kilograms of food in a single day. Gramineous plants are their favorites, such as grasses, corn, sugar cane, reed, plantain, and bamboo. Elephants eat more than 400 plant species, and there are more than 100 other foods that they can eat.

Q: Elephants look powerful, but do they have anything to fear?

A: Elephants are the largest animals on land, so there are basically no predators in the forest that can threaten them. There is a saying that elephants are afraid of bees, that baby elephants are terrified about sounds made by bees at first, but they are highly intelligent, equivalent to a 5 or 6-year-old child, so they are not be afraid after getting used to the buzzing.

Q: How do male elephants court female elephants?

A: Male elephants’ ears secrete a hormonal liquid, which emits a pungent odor to attract the attention of female elephants. This odor is unpleasant and can be smelled from a few kilometers away. The males will become very irritable and fight with each other, even actively using their noses to sniff the genitals of females. If the females happen to be in heat, they will smell each other's body, making them more intimate, and mate smoothly.

Q: Does a baby elephant act like a spoiled baby with its mother?

A: Baby elephants are generally naughty. They have many different types of behavior, such as making cheerful calls, spraying water on other elephants when playing, and crawling on top of their mothers or holding their mother’s legs, putting their head under their mother’s body or playing with its own nose.

Q: How many babies will a female elephant give birth to in her lifetime?

A: A female elephant can live to 60 years old in the wild. They can give birth to five or six babies in their lifetime. The gestation period is 18-22 months, and baby elephants will drink milk until 4 years old. Female gives birth to a baby elephant at an average interval of five years.

Q: How about the memory of the elephant? Are there any interesting examples?

A: Elephants generally have excellent memories. They tend to remember the places they have been and the road they have traveled, even the rangers who helped them. Once, a wild elephant was injured in a fight and a passing ranger treated its wound. After that,every time the elephant saw the ranger, it slowly approached, showing a docile pose. They can also quickly understand human gestures and some languages. Sometimes when we examine for them, we ask them to lift their feet and open their mouths, and they quickly understand.

尽管“北漂”野象群未来的迁徙方向和返回时间仍是未知,王斌相信,这群野象终有一天会回到这里。在西双版纳从事野生动物保护工作17年的他,早在几年前就见过这群温和而活跃的“短鼻家族”。这些年,在这片大象出走的雨林里,究竟发生了什么?可能没几个人比他更清楚。

凤凰网旅游栏目《大美中国》将陆续推出“神奇动物在哪里”系列,聚焦国家公园、保护区等特色目的地,通过博物馆专家、野生动物专家、科普达人、野生动物摄影师的视角,带你了解那些“神奇动物”们的生活。

“在现场投食时,我们主要负责指挥和配合当地的林草部门,把满载食物的货车开到大象行进的道路上,等象群接近时就把食物倒在路上。”为了阻拦象群进城的步伐,王斌和同事们每天安排几辆货车,把近两吨的食物投放在大象行进的前方。这些是大象最爱吃的青玉米、菠萝和香蕉。

但一开始野象们却“不领情”,很少主动去吃。王斌和同事们并没有灰心,不断投放,“或许是大象感受到我们的良苦用心,几天后开始吃着食物往西北和西南方向前进,远离了城区方向。”看到“美食攻势”配合其他阻拦手段发挥了作用,王斌悬着的心终于放了下来。

给大象投放的菠萝

给大象投放的菠萝

4月16日,从西双版纳出发的野象家族一路向北,首次靠近昆明附近的玉溪地区。这是亚洲象的足迹第一次出现在西双版纳、临沧和普洱以外的地区。16头亚洲象的“北漂”壮举牵动了全国网友的心。

事实上,王斌和这个“网红”野象家族已是“旧相识”。北漂野象以前就生活在勐养,而王斌正是西双版纳国家级自然保护区勐养管护所的副所长,从事野生动物保护工作已有将近17个年头。

5月27日,由于熟悉北漂象群的生活习性,他作为西双版纳国家级自然保护区专家组的成员,被云南省林草局邀请赴玉溪协助当地政府开展野象监测辅助工作,时刻跟随野象的行踪。王斌一路上感受到了人们对野象家族的热情,前来围观的不仅有当地村民,还有很多远道而来的外省游客。

在19天紧张的监测工作后,王斌和同事们出色的完成了指挥部安排的工作。版纳保护区专家组留下1人,其他全部返回版纳。

熟睡的“短鼻家族”

熟睡的“短鼻家族”

这群出走的野象家族叫短鼻家族,由16头大象组成,因为鼻子相比其他大象短了一截,所以取了这个名字。它们之前一直生活在西双版纳国家级自然保护区勐养片区,我和同事之前经常会在野象谷监测点看到它们。这个象群最大特点就是活跃,性情温和,不会主动伤人,象群里的小象很顽皮也很可爱。去年三月份它们就已经开始迁徙了,一开始象群只是到了普洱地区活动,今年四月就开始往北走,沿途经过石屏县抵达现在的玉溪。”谈起这个野象家族,王斌脸上露出了兴奋的表情。

它们才是这片雨林的主人

云南西双版纳国家级自然保护区勐养子保护区

云南西双版纳国家级自然保护区勐养子保护区

原始雨林中的野生竹叶青蛇

原始雨林中的野生竹叶青蛇

短鼻家族的家乡是云南西双版纳国家级自然保护区,位于祖国西南边陲,由勐养、勐仑、勐腊、尚勇、曼稿5个子保护区组成,总面积约24.25万公顷,占全州面积的12.68%,是目前中国面积最大的热带原始林区。这里生物资源极其丰富,也是野生亚洲象种群数量和活动最为集中的区域。由于各项生态保护工作的开展,野生亚洲象种群得到妥善的保护。这个北漂象群正是来自勐养子保护区。勐养是其中最大的子保护区,占地面积约10万公顷。

王斌在勐养管护所的办公室内

王斌在勐养管护所的办公室内

今年41岁的王斌穿着一身墨绿色制服,坐在位于勐养镇上的国家级自然保护区勐养管护所的办公室里,在电脑上搜索关于北上迁徙野生亚洲象的最新消息。

“我第一次认识亚洲象还在上高中。那天去西双版纳野象谷游玩,我第一次见到了这种庞大的野生动物。它的步伐缓慢而优雅,动作充满力量,不时发出或低沉或高亢的吼声。当时我就被它给迷住了!”昭通人王斌回忆道,西双版纳绿意盎然的雨林,湿润温和的气候和原始的生态环境,在他心中埋下了一颗种子。他暗下决心,总有一天会回到这里。于是,王斌大学时选择了动物保护专业。毕业后,他如愿被分配到西双版纳自然保护区。

王斌和同事在森林里检修设置在树上的红外线照相机

王斌和同事在森林里检修设置在树上的红外线照相机

卫星定位设备

卫星定位设备

王斌在2004年进入西双版纳国家级自然保护区管护局,日常的野外巡护和监测工作是他最喜爱的部分。他曾无数次在野外监测过野象的活动,留下过许多刻骨铭心的回忆。保护区的大部分地区属于原始丛林,不确定的因素很多,王斌和同事们有时需要带上干粮和帐篷,进入丛林好几天。丛林里潜伏着不少危险,除了野象,还有黑熊,野猪,蛇,大土蜂等。

“像蚂蟥、蚊子这些对我们来说都习以为常了。有一名同事曾经在野外巡护时遭遇过黑熊的袭击,屁股上被黑熊的利爪掏下一大块肉,幸好当时有其他监测员和护林员在场,在他们的帮助下这名同事才能下山得到救治。”王斌回忆起巡护过程中的酸甜苦辣,流露出些许惆怅的神情。

王斌行走在丛林中

王斌行走在丛林中

王斌第一次近距离接触野生亚洲象,是在2005年,他还在尚勇子保护区任监测员的时候。在一次日常巡护过程中,王斌和另外6位监测员进入了茂密的树林,当他们快走到河边时,突然从附近不远的树丛里传来一阵野象的悲鸣吼声。王斌慌了神,下意识回头的他看到带队的哈尼族领队早已跑到了河中间,这时他才缓过神,急忙朝着河对岸飞奔而去。

“后来我们才知道那是一只刚刚经历难产,失去了宝宝的母象发出的叫声。那种叫声饱含着愤怒和悲伤,距离我们可能也就十来米。当时那种害怕的感受无法描述,只记得像发生地震一样,来不及多想,就本能地往外跑,到了河对岸才敢停下来,心脏砰砰砰地狂跳。”一周后王斌和同事们回到了事发地,发现了已经腐烂的小象遗骸。这次经历让王斌对野生亚洲象有了愈加深刻的认识。

他认为野生亚洲象和人类有着相似的情感,会因为失去至亲而感到悲伤。它们才是这片雨林最开始的主人。他犹记得一位有着三十余年护林经验的老护林员对他说,人要永远对大自然和野生动物保持一颗敬畏之心。

勐养子保护区里的大象

勐养子保护区里的大象

在此后的工作中,王斌和同事们多次在野外远距离监测到野生亚洲象的活动。他们仔细记录下每一次发现野象活动的时间和地点,拍摄象群的活动,也为相关科研机构的研究提供协助。“大象往往会带着小象在林子里觅食和玩耍,小象吃饱了会在河水里洗澡,相互打闹嬉戏,就和孩子一样可爱。”每次在野外监测到亚洲象群的活动,王斌都很惊喜。看到小野象们躺在妈妈的怀里午休时,他感到无比温暖和感动。

王斌和同事们在“硝塘”进行监测记录

王斌和同事们在“硝塘”进行监测记录

在王斌的印象中,大象是一种神奇的生物,富有人情味,充满灵性,不但有极强的记忆力,还会对帮助过它们的人类表达感恩。有一次王斌和同事们在野外发现了一头被困在蓄水坑里的野象。这头大象在爬山过程中不慎掉入村民挖的池子里,工作人员急忙派来了一辆挖土车,把水池的边缘挖平,最终把野象给救了出来。被救出水坑后的野象并没有马上跑开,而是回头顶了顶挖土车的大铁铲,似乎在用它的方式向他们表达谢意。

还有一次野象救助也让王斌记忆深刻。2007年,两头公象在中老边境的勐腊县打斗的过程中,一只名叫“平平”的野象屁股被对方戳伤感染,命悬一线。

一支由公安民警、野生亚洲象专家和专业医护人员组成的51人队伍赶到现场,救护组为了将“平平”运送到野象谷内的救助中心,只能将它麻醉。为了不让大象因为沉睡而压迫心脏,王斌和同事们需要每隔一段时间唤醒大象。王斌第一次如此近距离接触野象,当他的手抚摸着“平平”粗糙的皮肤,感受到它缓慢而坚实的心跳,看着它偶尔睁开的大眼睛,王斌感慨万分,更坚定了从事野象保护的决心。之后,救助中心的医生们给平平做了一场大手术。平平很快恢复了健康,这让王斌非常欣慰。

村民和大象的相处之道

王斌在勐养保护区内的空格六队探访当地村民

王斌在勐养保护区内的空格六队探访当地村民

除了日常的基本巡护,到保护区的村庄做野生动物保护宣传是王斌的另外一个重要职责。每年王斌和同事们都要下到保护区范围内的每一个村寨进行安全教育,给村民们发放安全手册,配合公益环保组织到当地学校里开展安全普及课程,以增强当地村民的野生动物保护意识和防范意识。

“由于保护区内有不少村庄,野象的活动会影响村民们的日常生活,有时候也会造成人象冲突的意外事件,造成经济损失,长期生活在这里的村民都对野象又爱又怕。野象经常会来到村民家的庄稼地里觅食,有不熟悉野象习性的外来务工人员还会专门跑来看大象,也造成过不少意外伤害事件。”

奔跑中的大象时速可以达到将近40公里,而人类只有25公里,和大象赛跑几乎没啥胜算。王斌曾接到群众求救电话,赶到时发现大象像玩玩具一样摆弄一辆不成样子的摩托车,车主人躲在公路涵洞瑟瑟发抖。他把人救上车,就看到愤怒的大象已朝他们车头冲了过来。无法前进了,他只能在小道上倒车,惊慌失措的他倒了好几次才顺利逃离。回忆起那惊魂一刻,王斌的手心还会冒出一些冷汗。

王斌还发现大象十分聪明,他曾看见大象翻过一个两米五高的栏杆。于是,他们不得不把横向的栏杆改为竖向。他发现和这样的对手相处,一不能驱赶,二不能招惹,三要绝对避免所有正面冲突。警报响了,象只要出没在村子周围,就会及时触动红外报警系统,村子的电子警示牌紧接着会显示,而村子广播也会马上提醒大家不要外出。他们也教育过大象,经常肇事的象会被麻醉后放到大象救助中心,这对聪明的大象无疑会产生警示作用。

当地居民家中

当地居民家中

为了减少人象冲突的发生,王斌和同事们还进行了栖息地的改造和修复工作。“我们把之前一些搬迁走的村庄农田改造成大象的食源地,种上大象爱吃的玉米、竹林和芭蕉等作物。目前我们已经有关坪食源基地和莲花塘食源基地,取得了一定的成效。大象不定期就会来到食源基地觅食,减少了对村民居住区域的侵扰。”

关坪食源地

关坪食源地

从170头到300头

野生亚洲象作为热带雨林里的旗舰物种,对大自然生态环境和人类自身来说,都有不可替代的重要意义。大象被誉为“雨林里的工程师”。它迁徙过程中所走过的象道为森林里的其他动植物开辟出了一条生命通道,而它的粪便给植物带来了肥料,踩过的巨大脚印也成为了昆虫和浮游生物的天堂。

勐养子保护区里的野象群

勐养子保护区里的野象群

在王斌和保护区同事的努力下,保护区内人象冲突的事件得到显著的减少,随着村民动物保护意识的加强,偷盗猎的现象在保护区不再发生,野生亚洲象的种群安全得到了充分的保障。加上大象没有天敌,这使得野生亚洲象种群数量不断增加。据王斌的观测和统计,目前在勐养子保护区内活跃的野生亚洲象约有70-90头,而全国野生亚洲象的数量已由八十年代初的170多头增加到如今的300余头。

原始雨林中的野象

原始雨林中的野象

王斌推测,亚洲象离开熟悉的生活范围,来到人类居住的区域觅食,可能与西双版纳地区多年来热带雨林生态环境的改变有关。由于森林保护力度不断加大,保护区森林覆盖率从上世纪80年代的88%提高到了现在的95%以上,致使原有的高大乔木、灌丛、草地合理生态系统林况单一化,区内几乎被高大乔木占据,而林下易取食草本植物减少。随着亚洲象种群数量的增加,大象对食物的需求也在增长,它们只能走出密林,来到农田里寻找可替代的食物。

茶山上的扩音器,一旦监测到有野象出没就会向周围村民预警

茶山上的扩音器,一旦监测到有野象出没就会向周围村民预警

“我对亚洲象的感情特别复杂。保护它们是我们的职责,看到野生动物都好好的,我们打心眼里觉得欣慰。如果发现了一头死象,即便是年老的大象,我们也特别难受。但如果大象伤人了,人死了,我们难道不难受吗?”王斌说,几年前,他曾有一位同事被大象夺去生命。一边是人,一边是大象,在这片土地上为了争夺生存空间而旷日持久的拉锯纠缠,这样的困境让所有西双版纳保护区的工作者都饱受煎熬。“人类需要生存,大象也需要生存。”王斌说。

在村公路旁,一个指示牌上标记出大象通道的位置

在村公路旁,一个指示牌上标记出大象通道的位置

未来,王斌希望国家能够继续关注和支持野生亚洲象的保护工作,建立一个以亚洲象保护为中心的国家公园,调动保护区内一切可以调配的资源,把亚洲象赖以生存的栖息地修复工作做好,最终形成一个综合性的保护区,让亚洲象能够得到充足的食物和良好的生存空间。同时,发展以野生动物科普主题的观光旅游,让更多人能够参与到环保公益当中,同时也能增加当地村民的旅游收入,促进生态和谐发展。

对于北漂野象家族的未来,他感到很乐观,即便北上野象群未来的迁徙方向和返回时间都不得而知。王斌相信,北漂的大象们终有一天会回到这里。

Q&A

Q: 凤凰网旅游

A:中国云南亚洲象种源繁育及救助中心大象医生保明伟

Q:北上迁徙的大象一路被喂食,会不会得糖尿病?会不会产生依赖性?

A:目前来看这些迁徙的野象觅食行为都算比较正常的,它们还是本能地以自己寻找的野生植物为主要食物来源,而人为投放的食物只占到一小部分,只是为了引导它们往山林里走,它平时很多食物也含有很多糖分,所以不会因为喂食而得病。

Q:北上迁徙的象群会和人一样思乡吗?

A:由于大象的记忆力很好,离开之前的栖息地久了肯定也会想家的,因为它还是比较熟悉热带雨林的环境,还有一些熟悉的象群在老家,而不是所有大象都迁徙出来了,时间长了它们也会想念同伴和家乡,这和我们人类的情感是相似的。

Q:大象在野外午睡时憨态可掬的样子引起了很多人的喜爱,大象每天都要午睡吗,一天需要睡眠多长时间?

A:正常的大象一般一天可能只会睡几个小时。因为大象体型庞大,大部分时间还是会花在觅食上,一旦象群里有小象,象群的休息时间会延长不少,因为小家伙都喜欢偷懒,特别中午就会多睡会,大象体型很大,一般睡一会就会换一面躺着以防止压迫到心脏。

Q: 北上迁徙的象群到了陌生的地方,会如何去适合新的环境?它们会在什么时候回家呢?

A:对象群来说这次远途北上迁徙其实是一个不小的考验,还好现在云南的气温普遍不冷,所以这些野象到了新的环境还是比较习惯,除了周围环境和地形比较陌生,其他的日常觅食并不会受到太大影响,只要有森林可以隐蔽,大象就可以一直迁徙,可能要到下半年气温变冷了它们才会往回走,现在还不好说,需要进一步的监测和观察,毕竟西双版纳的气候和雨林环境还是最适合象群长期生活的,我们也希望象群能够健健康康地返回西双版纳。

Q:大象悲伤或生气的时候,一般会怎么表达?

A:大象生气的时候也会像人一样大吼大叫, 发出音频很高的声音,并用鼻子弄断附近的树木枝干,耳朵竖得高高的,如果遇到其他人和动物还会作出攻击的姿态,用大脚挠脚边的泥土,假装冲刺,来回踱步。

Q:大象开心的时候会怎么庆祝?

A:它们开心的时候发出的声音会很温柔,富有磁性和感召力,耳朵会很自然地像扇子那样来回摆动,身体动作缓慢而稳健,还会用鼻子触碰附近大象的身体进行互动。

Q:在一个象群里谁说了算?

A:因为大象是母系社会,在一个象群里话语权最大的一般都是成年的母象,就像我们人类家庭里的奶奶、妈妈或者姐姐说了算,所以一般一支象群走在最后的都是这个家族的母象,母亲是领导力和安全的象征。

Q:为什么成年公象要离开群体独自生活?

A:在大象家族里由于是母亲说了算,一般公象到了成年都会选择主动离开象群,寻找其他的象群家族进行互动,并寻找伴侣培育下一代,这样做也能够防止近亲繁殖,促进种群间的基因交流。

Q:都说大象是吃货,它们一天能吃掉多少食物?平时最喜欢吃的食物是什么?

A:一头成年野生亚洲象一天吃掉的食物会占到它们体重的百分之八左右,一头三吨的成年大象每天就要吃240公斤左右的食物。大象最喜欢吃的是禾本科植物,如各种草类,玉米,甘蔗,粽叶芦,芭蕉和竹子等,我们统计过大象会吃400多种植物,绝大多数大象能吃的食物也有100多种。

Q:大象看起来力大无穷,它会有害怕的东西吗?

A:大象是陆地上体型最大的动物,所以它们基本没有特别害怕的东西,在森林里没有天敌。虽然有大象害怕蜜蜂的说法,一开始的小象可能会怕蜜蜂发出的声音,但由于它们的智商很高,相当于五六岁的小孩,很快就适应后就不怕了。

Q:小象会和象妈妈撒娇吗?它们一般怎么撒娇?

A:小象一般都很调皮活泼,撒娇时会有很多不同的表现,比如经常发出欢快的叫声,在水里玩的时候故意往别的大象身上喷水,有时候会爬到妈妈身上或者抱着妈妈的腿,把头埋在妈妈身体下,玩自己的鼻子等。

Q:一只母象一生会孕育几只小象?

A:一只母象在野外环境下寿命大概能活到60岁,它们一生最多能孕育5-6胎小象,大象的怀孕期长达18-22月,刚生下来的小象会喝奶到4岁,一般平均大象会间隔5年诞下一胎小象。

Q:大象的记忆力怎么样?有没有什么有趣的例子?

A:大象普遍有出色的记忆力,它们往往会记得去过的地方,走过的路,有时候也会记住帮助过他们的护林员。曾经有一次,一头野象因为和别的大象打架受伤,一个路过的护林员为它上了药,以后他每次见到这头野象时,这头野象都会慢慢靠近这个护林员,距离10米左右,表现出温顺的神态。它们也能很快理解人的手势和一些语言,我们有时候为野象检查身体的时候就会让它们抬起脚,张开嘴,它们都能很快记住和理解。