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Creating A Tech Safety Net Because My Neighbors Are Elephants

Deploying China's first connected Asian Elephant protection, monitoring, and warning system

Xishuangbanna is one of the world's most well-preserved tropical ecosystems. Known locally as the "emerald belt", the area is home to many of China's protected species, including the Indian bison, lesser mouse-deer, clouded leopard, Phayre's leaf monkey, and gray peacock-pheasant. 

The area is most famous for being home to China's remaining Asian elephants, next to which locals have lived closely for nearly 20 years.

Sharing is caring

The Asian elephant is an iconic species among Xishuangbanna's rich fauna. Through wildlife protection efforts, the number of wild Asian elephants in China has increased from about 170 in the early 1980s to more than 300 today. Their behavior and feeding patterns have also changed over the years, and the elephants have lost their fear of humans. Their living spaces overlap with local people and it's not uncommon to see an elephant dining on farmers' crops. Nor is it uncommon to see one of the giants roaming around villages and farms outside their reserve, searching for food during the harvest season. 

Preventing conflicts between hungry elephants and local residents is a top priority in Yunnan's ecosystem conservation efforts.

For Dong Rui, a ranger at the Mengyang Management and Conservation Bureau in Yunnan Province's Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, monitoring wild elephants one of his key tasks.

In the past, when we saw elephants coming, we could only spread the news by word of mouth. Now with advanced devices like HD and infrared cameras, we can monitor and track them on our phones. We can also control the cameras on our phones, rotating them through 360°. Dong Rui
Ranger, Mengyang Management and Conservation Bureau, Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, Yunnan

Grey alert!

Dong Rui is describing the world's first Asian elephant protection, monitoring, and warning system. Deployed in November 2019, the smart system comprises ultra-HD and infrared cameras with removable SD cards, video, and a warning broadcast system that pushes warnings of elephant movements to locals on a mobile app if an elephant is detected. To support real-time data transmission, the Xishuangbanna Forestry and Grassland Bureau and China Mobile Yunnan built the system using 4G and 5G, fiber, cloud, and IoT. They deployed monitoring devices in places where elephants frequently appear. 

Using the networks and monitoring system deployed in the rainforest surrounding nearby villages, it only takes 10 to 15 seconds from spotting an elephant to issuing a warning. Real-time monitoring, high-speed data transmission, and warnings form a strong safety net that prevents direct conflict between humans and elephants. Tan Xuji
Director of Asian Elephant Monitoring Center, Scientific Research Institute of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, Yunnan Province

Since deployment, unplanned human-elephant encounters have been greatly reduced, with Tan reporting zero incidents of injured humans or other conflicts in the areas covered. The system has so far collected 1.43 million images and sent more than 6,000 warnings.

  • 1.43million

    images collected

  • 6,000+

    warnings sent

All-optical networking

As well as the protective function, researchers can systematically collect data for research. Doing so requires high-performance networks, so Huawei teamed up with China Mobile Yunnan to carry out the All-Optical Smart City 1-3-9 project. 

High-quality private lines ensure real-time backhaul of the monitoring videos and support collaboration between local and provincial governments. An ultra-low-latency optical transmission link from the monitoring center to research center in Kunming helps the two organizations work together to boost research efforts on Asian elephants.

China Mobile Yunnan's all-optical network supports the real-time and ultra-reliable backhaul of monitoring data, enabling the provincial and regional research centers to coordinate research and achieve better conservation outcomes that protects both humans and elephants. Yin Zhiran
Engineer, China Mobile Yunnan

We all share the same planet and we can only flourish if we respect all living things. Technology has the power to better protect nature and ensure that we can harmoniously coexist with the millions of species that share our home.