A herd of 15 Asian elephants has been making its way North across China since March 2020, and nobody is quite sure why, reports Vivian Wang for the New York Times.
The herd has covered more than 300 miles since they wandered out of their home in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, located in southwestern China along its border with Laos and Myanmar.
The elephant herd left its habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, which is located near the border of Myanmar and Laos in China’s Yunnan province, in mid-April.
Ever since they have been escorted by a dozen drones and police officers. From May, China Central Television (CCTV) has been live-streaming their daily activities.
No one knows where the elephants want to go.
The herd trumped north for more than 500 kilometers until it reached the outskirts of Kunming city on June 6. Then, lured by fruit provided by their escorts, they took a U-turn and began heading south.
More than 410 emergency personnel, 374 vehicles and 14 drones were deployed on Monday with more than two tonnes of elephant food, in continuing efforts to lead the elephants away from human areas, and to evacuate people in their path.
Wildlife authorities are struggling to understand why the group of 16 elephants went on the move last year. According to Xinhua, in November, they arrived in Pu’er in Yunnan, where a female elephant gave birth to a baby, and settled in place for five months before starting to walk again on 16 April.
A week later, two left the group, leaving 15 to continue their odyssey to the north. The group now appear to be back on the right track, heading south-west, although on Monday authorities reported one male elephant was traced away from the group, 4km to the north-east.
The travels of the elephants, first detected leaving their natural habitat in March 2020, has captivated Chinese social media, although their at times destructive presence has caused at least 6.8m yuan ($1.07m) in damage, according to state media.