A herd of wandering Asian elephants in China have stopped for a rest near a village in Xiyang.
The 16 elephants were first detected in March 2020, leaving their natural habitat for reasons that wildlife authorities are yet to understand. So far, the elephants have covered over 500 kilometers, but it seems they may now be heading back home, whichi s believed to be in the Mengyangzi Nature Reserve in Xishuangbanna in southwestern Yunnan province.
In November last year, they stopped in Pu’er, Yunnan, and settled there for five months when a female elephant gave birth to a baby. They began to trek again on April 16th.
Two of the elephants have left the group and have continued up north, and one male elephant has been spotted 4 kilometers away from the group, heading north-east. The rest seem to be headed towards the south-west of the country.
According to state media, the traveling elephants, who have been allowed to roam freely, have caused at least 6.8 million Chinese yuan ($1.07 million) in damages since they left their natural habitat, including eating crops, damaging buildings and poking their trunks through doors and windows.
On Monday June 7, more than 410 emergency personnel, 374 vehicles and 14 drones were deployed with more than two tons of elephant food as Chinese authorities continued to keep the herd safe and lead them away from human areas and, similarly, to evacuate people in their path.
Millions of people in China have tuned in to watch the livestream of the elephants, who are being followed by drones and escorted by the police around them to make sure they’re safe.
People have speculated that the elephants’ migration may be due to an inexperienced leader that may have led the herd astray or that they are simply looking for a new habitat.
The Asian elephant is an endangered species, with China housing around 300 wild elephants of the species. Scientists say that this is the furtherst any of the wild elephants have travelled from their natural habitat.