The Neglect of Traditional Ecological Knowledge on Wild Elephant-Related Problems in Xishuangbanna, SW China

  • Zhao-lu Wu
  • Qing-cheng HeEmail author
  • Qiu-jun Wu
Part of the Ecological Research Monographs book series (ECOLOGICAL)


Elephants have roamed into areas of human settlement and destroyed crops, damaged houses and infrastructures, and occasionally injured or killed people, resulting in elephant-related problems in southwestern China. Based on data collected in the field during July 2009 to March 2011 as well as in the literature, we discuss the effects of neglecting traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) on wild Asian elephant-related problems. We had three findings. First, the environment-friendly TEK, including the simple ecological views of forest priority, biocultural rural landscape, and elephant culture, played an important role in conservation of forests and all the wildlife in the forests. Second, indigenous people were forced to abandon traditional beliefs and cultures, which were considered as blind worship in the late 1950s. The neglect of TEK increased human–elephant conflicts. After the armed “capturing elephant” approved by government during 1972–1973, illegal elephant poaching occurred yearly. Elephants lost habitats and began to cause problems: 140 people were injured or killed as a result of elephant attacks during 1991–2008. Third, the prevailing selfish consciousness encouraged people to move into Xishuangbanna to cultivate tropical crops including rubber and to build a highway network, worsening the elephant-related problems. The traditional culture of adoring the wild elephant became weak; 95.9 % of the 412 interviewees did not like to coexist with wild elephants. In conclusion, it could be understood clearly that humans had approached the elephants’ habitat and provoked the elephants’ aggressive behavior. It is necessary to reconfigure moderate and environment-friendly TEK to mitigate elephant-related problems.


Cultural landscape Human–elephant conflict (HEC) Rubber cultivation Sacred site Selfish consciousness Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) Wild elephant-related problems Xishuangbanna 



Foundation item: Under the auspices of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30870431)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and GeobotanyYunnan UniversityKunmingChina
  2. 2.Editorial Department of JournalYunnan Agricultural UniversityKunmingChina

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