For the past 17 months, a herd of wild Asian elephants have been roaming through China and making headlines.
Sixteen elephants left a nature reserve in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan in March 2020 and started north.
The endangered species plowed their way through fields, eating millions of dollars in crops as they went, and even entered villages.
Walking hundreds of miles is exhausting and at one point the herd was seen napping in a field. The adorable moment was shared around the world.
The herd settled for awhile in a protected habitat in Puer before wandering to the outskirts of the capital city of Kunming.
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After an exciting 807-mile trek across the country, the herd is finally heading home.
Experts were unsure if the herd would ever return to the Xishuangbanna nature reserve. They claim that over the years the increase in forest coverage has eliminated some of the grasslands and food supply for the elephants.
“A high forest coverage rate is a good thing for birds and rodents that feed on fruits, but not so ideal for the Asian elephants as they prefer places with more sunlight,” Guo Xianming, director of the scientific research institute at the reserve, told Global Times.
Wildlife officials reported the herd is headed south and with the help of an emergency team will be safely guided back to the reserve.
Wan Yong, leader of the team in charge of monitoring the herd, said the elephants are being guided by over 25,000 police officers, 1,500 emergency vehicles, drones, electric fences, and food.
150,000 people were evacuated along the migration route to ensure the safety of the elephants and the people. The elephants left a path of destruction which Yong said over 5 million yuan ($771,000) in insurance funds will be disbursed to cover property damage.
On Sunday, the herd was seen crossing a bridge over the Yuanjiang River and en route to the reserve.
The endangered species has thrived in Yunnan province, which is home to 300 Asian elephants. Due to state protections and a ban on hunting, the Asian elephant population has nearly doubled since 1978.
The migrating elephants appear to be in good health, but some experts say it is only a matter of time until they leave the reserve again in search of a new habitat or food.
You can help preserve and protect endangered Asian elephants by signing the pledge below. REFUSE To Take Part In Exploitative Elephant Tourism!
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