Wandering elephants heading straight for a city of 8 million people


Nap time

A herd of 15 Asian elephants in China is on an unprecedented journey: Over the past year, the pachyderms have wandered 300 miles from their home in Xishuangbanna, a nature reserve in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, north toward some unknown destination. Their travels have captivated the nation. No one knows why the elephants started migrating in the first place—or where they’re headed along the longest recorded elephant migration in China’s history.

Now, the family of elephants—six adult females, three adult males, and six juveniles—is lingering on the outskirts of Kunming, home to more than eight million people. In recent months, as they’ve drawn closer to the city, they’ve encroached on human settlements, raiding crops, wandering down streets, and searching for food in small towns. They’ve broken into kitchens and popped into a nursing home. Some reportedly may have gotten drunk on fermented grain. While most of the group has banded together, one male left the main herd and is now approximately 15 miles away from the rest.

As the herd’s antics have captured public attention throughout the country, experts are left with a daunting challenge: figuring out how to reduce interactions between the elephants and people…

Everyone likes elephant stories. This herd apparently had a happy home where they’ve been on a nature reserve for decades. Someone got the wanderlust … and off they went.

2 thoughts on “Wandering elephants heading straight for a city of 8 million people

  1. Update says:

    A runaway elephant that was part of a herd trekking 500km north in the past few months has been captured and returned to its original habitat in Mengyangzi Nature Reserve, southern Yunnan province. https://www.scmp.com/news/people-culture/environment/article/3140285/runaway-elephant-wandering-herd-china-recaptured (includes several videos and links to related articles)
    The herd of 15 – originally 17 – elephants left their home months ago in a search of new habitat and entered the outskirts of the provincial capital Kunming last month. On June 6, one elephant left the herd, while others gradually headed back south.
    “Since Monday, the elephant has entered a community in Yuxi city, only 300 metres from the Jinhong Highway and 200 metres from the Kunyu intercity rail, posing a high risk for public security,” the notice said.
    To ensure the safety of both the elephant and the public, authorities anaesthetised the elephant and captured it. It was returned to Mengyangzi on Wednesday afternoon.
    The rest of the herd is still in the forests around Yuxi, being closely monitored by the local government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuxi
    Previously, an elephant researcher told the South China Morning Post that in the past 20 years, suitable habitat for Asian elephants in Yunnan has been reduced by 40 per cent as land has been turned into plantations for economic crops such as tea and rubber.

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