World-famous herd of wandering Chinese elephants finally heads for home

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A herd of wandering Chinese elephants is returning back to their native habitat after a 17-month epic journey that made international news.

Travelling across the Yanjiang river in Yunnan, the 14 Asian elephants are returning to the nature reserve in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture on Sunday night, The Guardian reported.


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The elephants completed a journey that was more than 310 miles in China, causing more than $1 million in damages but it resulted in the birth of a calf in Pu’er.

In June, drones were used to show how the elephants sleep in herds outside a village in Xiyang township.

A team of 410 emergency personnel, 374 vehicles and 14 drones were deployed with more than two tonnes of elephant food to help keep the elephants safe and away from residential areas.

It is unclear as to why the elephants decided to embark on a long journey, but Zhang Li, a professor on mammal conservation at Beijing Normal University, told the state-run newspaper Global Times in June that “Large-scale human engineering developments have exacerbated the ‘islanding’ of elephant habitats.”

“The traditional buffer zones between humans and elephants are gradually disappearing, and the chances of elephants’ encountering humans naturally increase greatly,” Li added.

While tourists were not allowed to accompany the elephants, local farmers witnessed the elephants and complained the creatures were eating crops of corn and truckloads of pineapples.

Soon after, Chinese authorities warned farmers to not grow poisonous mushrooms so as not to have the elephants mistake it for food. In July, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported it, which prompted Chinese state media to poke fun at Western media with a response from the Global Times titled, “China’s care for wandering elephants mirrors adorable national image the West can’t distort.”

Local wildlife experts have been unable to pinpoint the reason the herd decided to move. But Zhang Li, a professor on mammal conservation at Beijing Normal University, told the state-run Global Times in June that “Large-scale human engineering developments have exacerbated the ‘islanding’ of elephant habitats.”

This meant “the traditional buffer zones between humans and elephants are gradually disappearing, and the chances of elephants’ encountering humans naturally increase greatly,” he said.


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