Why Yunnan's wandering elephants are loved by the world
More than 400 people and 14 drones were deployed by local Chinese authorities on Monday to try to lead a herd of 15 wandering elephants away from residential areas in the southwest of the country.
Authorities have been tracking the elephants ever since they left their nature reserve in 2020. They have caused more than $1 million worth of damage but their journey has gone viral and the world has been watching with interest.
There are 15 elephants in the herd, including three calves, who had been living in the Mengyangzi Nature Reserve in Xishuangbanna until March 2020. Authorities were alerted when they reached the city of Pu'er last December.
In the past 40 days the herd have covered an incredible 500 km, reaching the outskirts of Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan Province.
A decline in edible plants in forest habitats has put pressure on the animals to find food, according to China's Xinhua news agency, which also reported numbers of the Asian elephants have increased in Yunnan Province in recent decades.
The Asian elephant is an endangered species, with estimates that there around 300 in the south of Yunnan province. Experts say that while migration is not uncommon, this is the furthest any of the wild elephants have traveled from their natural habitat.
The original group was made up of 17 elephants but reports claim two turned back after gaining access to alcohol in a villager's house and becoming inebriated.
The current group has surprised locals and social media followers as they have found inventive ways to feed themselves, most notably when they were filmed entering a villager's backyard to turn on the water tap for a drink.
Source: CGTN and Yunnan Daily App