Tra My-Tien Phuoc Elephant Sanctuary

This was never intended to be a current survey of elephants in the region, but no assessment can omit a visit to the field area under question. My first visit, to Tien Phuoc District, took place between December 5th and December 6th 2001. There were reports of an elephant having been seen on December 2nd and an excursion was made on Wednesday, December 5th to the area. We found a footprint (34 – 38 cms diameter) at GPS N15o 24′ 58.9″ E 108o 12′ 49.7″ and a pile of dung (approx. 10 kg in weight) at GPS N 15o 24′ 59.8″ E 108o 12′ 48,1″ of which photographs were taken (Appendix IV). Broken tree branches in the vicinity indicated recent feeding. A local farmer, Mr Nguyen Dinh Duong, confirmed that he had observed a lone elephant on December 2nd in the area. Forest Ranger Mr Tran Van Nhang added that the elephant he observed on that date had tusks about 30 cm long. From sightings, particularly during crop raiding, it would seem that there might be two herds (6 and 4) and one lone male. However, since sightings do not happen at the same time and crop damage also has not happened in two places simultaneously, the lower figure below may well be correct. Bringing up-to-date the survey by Cheryl Nash and Trinh Viet Cuong we would have the following elephant sightings/population estimates in the districts of Tien Phuoc and Tra My:-

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total*
1995 8/15
1996 22/29
1997 8/26
1998 13/14
1999 (TD) 4(TD) 4(CS) 11/41
2000 4(TL) (MC) (MC) 4(TL) 7/11
2001 4(TL) 4(TN) 4(TH) 6(CS) 4(TN)
4(TL)
1(TH) 7/11


* Minimum/Maximum number of elephants
TH = Tien Hiep, TN = Tien Ngoc, TL = Tien Lanh, CS = Cao Son, MC = Mau Ca

Recent activity by elephants in 2001 has regrettably caused extensive crop damage in Tien Lanh, Tien Ngoc and Cao Son (Appendix III) communes. A number of houses were also damaged. Total recorded damage for 2001 exceeds VD 1,957 million (US$ 130,000) and is the highest ever.

Despite wishes to the contrary, it is not considered possible to avoid future crop damage under the present scenario. It can, perhaps, be minimised through re-designing crop fields, changing the type of crops grown and physical elephant barrier measures, but not excluded. The intensive land use and the type of crops favoured at the moment mitigate against a real chance of a solution. Either the elephants go, or substantial human relocation must take place. Removing the elephants from the area, as proposed by other authorities, might entail a number of elephant deaths, as has been the case with other recent attempts at Translocation elsewhere. This is not considered to be an option for Quang Nam Province in view of the now tiny extant Vietnamese elephant population. The risk is considered to be too high. Human relocations should be given high priority. The relocation of families from Tien Hiep in 1999 would seem to have been successful in reducing conflict there, but this may just be a temporary phenomenon.

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If Vietnam, Quang Nam Province, is serious about maintaining it’s unique wildlife, it must be prepared to adopt adequate measures to accommodate the respective animals, if necessary at the expense of discomforting some of the human population. Elephants play an important role in maintaining general biodiversity and other species are dependent on them for long-term survival. If Quang Nam Province wishes to participate in the expanding global economic market for ecotourism, the elephants are a key attraction which need to be considered in any long-term calculations.

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