- BBC News World
The herd of elephants that attracted global attention when they began a journey through China more than a year ago seems to be finally coming home.
The elephants traveled about 500 kilometers through China’s Yunnan province, reached the outskirts of Kunming, a major city, and later returned.
The herd of 14 elephants was seen crossing the Yuanjiang River on Sunday night. They were all said to be in good health and are now heading to their original nature reserve.
Officials from the wildlife protection agency said at a news conference Monday that the elephants had crossed the Yuanjiang River bridge and were heading south toward their nature reserve, managed by the city of Puer.
Officials indicated that more than 150,000 people have been evacuated from the road of the elephants.
And state media reports that more than 25,000 police officers are monitoring the herd with vehicles and drones.
The elephants have been traveling for 17 months. Its Mengyangzi Nature Reserve is located in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in southern China, near the border with Myanmar.
The elephants left the nature reserve last year and they began an unexpected trip to the north of China.
Chinese authorities, who have been following the elephants’ journey, do not know why the herd decided to travel or travel so far.
The herd traveled through various counties such as Mojiang and Eshan, appearing in different villages, towns, and cities.
But once they reached the outskirts of Kunming, they changed direction and began their journey back home.
The Chinese authorities have been following the elephants and trying to guide them back home.
An emergency committee set up to manage the elephants was reported to be using electric fences and baits and laying artificial roads to ensure the elephants take the correct route.
Wan Yong, who heads the team monitoring the elephants, told the news conference on Monday that the herd had crossed the Yuanjiang River and was continuing south.
He indicated that the migration route was “scientifically planned” and that the committee “will endeavor to allow the elephants to return to their habitat as soon as possible and thrive.”
Authorities also used 18 drones to distract the elephants from crowded areas where they could cause harm to themselves or others.
Despite the elephants entering some farms and shops in search of food, there were no injuries to any animals or humans during the past 17 months.
The scientists do not know why the elephants decided to leave their habitat And travel so far
Some have suggested that an inexperienced leader may have led the herd down the wrong path, while others believe the elephants may have been searching for a new habitat.
Joshua Plotnik, assistant professor of elephant psychology at the City University of New York, believes that one of the reasons for the elephants’ journey could be due to human-linked disturbances in their habitat.
Joshua told the BBC that “this is almost certainly related to the need for resources: food, water and shelter.”
In China, Asian elephants are the most protected animal species and thanks to conservation efforts, the population of wild elephants in Yunnan province has increased from 193 in the 1990s to 300 nowadays.
The increase in the number is extraordinary because their natural habitats have been reduced due to human activity, such as deforestation.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.