BEIJING--China said it plans to grow crops specifically for wild elephants to graze on in an effort to spare the livelihoods of local farmers.

The southwestern province of Yunnan will set up the special farm in a habitat protection area in Menghai county where 18 of the animals frequently raid the crops of farmers from villages in the area. The 51-hectare farm will grow corn, sugarcane, bamboo and bananas.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official with the local forestry bureau as saying protecting local residents was key to Asian elephant conservation

Wild Asian elephants are a protected species in China, and conservation efforts have allowed their numbers in the country to rise to about 300.

As is the case with their African cousins, Asian elephants are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching. An estimated 30,000 are left in the wild.