BEIJING – An elephant herd that attracted locals and people from around the world by making a year-long trip to urbanized southwest China, raiding farms and even a retirement home for food Well, finally headed home.
Local authorities have deployed trucks, workers and drones to monitor the elephants, clearing roads for them to pass safely and using food to drive them away from populated areas. Despite their entry into the villages and close proximity to the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming, no animals or humans were injured.
14 Asian elephants of various sizes and ages were guided across the Yuanjiang River in Yunnan on Sunday night and a path is being opened for them to return to the natural reserve where they lived in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.
The elephants left the reserve more than a year ago for unknown reasons and roamed more than 500 kilometers (300 mi) to the north. Having reached the outskirts of Kunming, the center of trade and tourism, they again turned south, but are still far from the reserve.
A male separated from the herd was later pacified and returned to the reserve.
Asian elephants are among the most protected animals in China and their population has grown to around 300, while their habitat has shrunk due to expanded farming and urban development.
As of Sunday night, the herd was still in Yuanjiang County, about 200 kilometers (125 mi) from the reserve.
However, the National Forestry and Grasslands Administration said the animals were in “suitable habitat” after crossing the river.
A notice issued by the provincial government said the herd’s progress is important and it will continue to work to bring the elephants back to their natural habitat soon.