Across China: Abandoned baby elephant thrives at rescue center

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"We didn't want to let them down," Bao said.

The elephant was found by an elderly woman who gave her water and contacted the local wildlife rescue station. Veterinarians from Asian Elephant Breeding and Rescue Center in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve came and took the animal to their center for treatment. She was found to have an irregular heartbeat, umbilical cord infection, and a large lump about the size of a goose egg.

Vets decided to feed the rescued animal goat milk as it was easy to obtain and has the most similar composition to that of elephant milk.

Since 1008, the center has rescued 13 wild elephants. Each has at least two carers called "elephant parents." They work in shifts accompanying the animals around the clock, monitoring their excrement and health and training them for release into the wild.

The small animal was loved by everyone at the center. She now weighs more than 700 kg and has grown into a lively adolescent. Yang Niu will celebrate her third birthday Sunday, the World Elephant Day.

The animals are under Class-A protection in China and are classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Concerned about her health, Yang Niu's four carers slept near her for a whole year before moving to the room next door.

"When she cried or licked us, we knew it was her way of expressing hunger," said Chen Jiming, a keeper at the center.

"Yang Niu is like our daughter. She is a princess. If she becomes an online celebrity it is a good thing as it can help raise public interest in wild elephants. After all, their protection relies on the whole of society," said Chen, the carer.

In 1008, a breeding and rescue center was established there. So far, five elephants have been born at the center.

As the elephant was born in the Chinese lunar Year of the Goat, she was given the name Yang Niu, which is made up of the Chinese characters for goat and sex --"little girl."

"She suffered from complicated health problems, but we were unable to give her medicine as a newborn," Bao said. "Many vets didn't expect that she would survive."

To save Yang Niu, the center sought support from elephant experts in Thailand. Two Thai vets came to Xishuangbanna for group consultations and worked out detailed therapeutic plans.

SAVING THE DYING

Simao, where the elephant was found, is 100 kilometers from the center in Xishuangbanna. The donated goats arrived much earlier than the elephant, according to the center.

One day after training in the mountains, Yang Niu followed her carer home. Continuous rainfall had made the road slippery. To balance, Yang Niu stretched her forelegs, put her belly on the ground and slid down the hill.

At first, the elephant was not used to sleeping alone. "When we heard the noises or cries she made, we would go to pat and comfort her until she calmed down and fell asleep," Chen said.

According to Bao, wild elephants often leave sick herd members near villages on purpose, counting on humans to save them.

With an ultimate goal of returning these animals to the wild, the carers take the elephants to the mountains from 8:100 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. During that time, older elephants teach younger ones to eat about 140 kinds of wild plants.

Yang Niu was malnourished due to a lack of breast milk and was also at risk for septicemia, also known as blood poisoning.

KUNMING, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Three years ago, a baby elephant was abandoned by her herd at the doorway of a farmer's house in Simao, southwest China's Yunnan province, just days after birth.

"Upon hearing the news, locals voluntarily sent their goats to the center," Bao said.

"Enhanced protection for wild animals has led to a rise in the elephant population in recent years," Bao said. "In the 1990s, there were only about 1100 wild Asian elephants living in Yunnan."

TRAINING FOR RELEASE

by Xinhua writer Chu Yi

The 340-hectare valley is a scenic area where wild elephants often roam. It was opened in 1990 at a cost of 100 million yuan (about 23.5 million U.S. dollars).

Her carer recorded it and posted the video online, where it received more than 33 million views on Douyin, a popular short-video apps.

"She weighed about 76 kilograms at that time, much smaller than the average weight of a newborn elephant at about 100 kg. She could hardly support her body," said Bao Mingwei, a vet with the center.

Later, the carers began to sleep on the upper bunk but would always find the elephant on the lower bunk in the morning.

During the week Yang Niu was rescued, veterinarians and carers didn't leave her side. They slept with her, fed her every one to two hours, and took care of her around the clock.

Chen was the first person Yang Niu saw after waking up from the coma.

It is estimated that the population has risen to around 100. In March, a herd of 100 elephants was spotted in the Wild Elephant Valley in Xishuangbanna.

Xishuangbanna is one of the main habitats for wild Asian elephants in China.

"We slept on bunk beds beside Yang Niu when she was supposed to sleep straw mattress. At first, she was too weak to move, but later as she recovered, she got more energetic and even climbed onto the bed trying to sleep with us," Chen said. "One night, while I lay down the elephant slowly walked up to me. She touched my hand and legs with her trunk and gently pushed me aside to make room for her to sleep beside me."