The carefree life of wild Asian elephants in SW China
By Zhao Ying

For wild Asian elephants roaming between rainforests and croplands, life is simple. They eat, play and sleep every day. In scorching summer, they love to drink and bath openly in the nitrate-rich pond. This is the natural playground for them to escape the heat and dryness. Just like humans, wild Asian elephants also need to drink salty water to supplement their salt intake. Sometimes, they would even break into villagers' homes to find salt.

Although Asian elephants are the largest living land animal in Asia, these giants are plant-lovers. Considering their huge size, they spend 16 to 18 hours eating roots, trees and bark every day. Whenever you see them, they are probably eating or on the way to finding food. 

Having lived side by side with farmers in Yunnan for many years, smart wild Asian elephants know the right time to find tasty food like sugarcane in croplands near the rainforest. After the harvest, they would visit the croplands less and return to the rainforest for nourishment. 

In China, wild Asian elephants only live in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Pu'er and Lincang cities in southern Yunnan. There are about 250 of them left due to habitat loss. In Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, people are replanting native plants that elephants favor on degraded land far away from villages in the hope that these giants can stay carefree in their homeland many years to come.