Officials Scramble as City Is Warned: The Elephants Are Coming

Experts speculate inexperienced leader may have led herd 300 miles away from China nature reserve
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 2, 2021 9:40 AM CDT
Officials Scramble as City Is Warned: The Elephants Are Coming
In this aerial photo taken Friday, a herd of wild Asian elephants is seen in southwestern China's Yunnan province.   (Hu Chao/Xinhua via AP, File)

A herd of 15 wild elephants that walked 300 miles from a nature reserve in China's mountainous southwest were approaching the major city of Kunming on Wednesday as authorities rushed to try to keep them out of populated areas. The group was 16 animals, but the government says two returned home and a baby was born during the walk, per the AP. Authorities have blocked traffic on roads while the elephants cross, as well as set up barriers and used food as bait to try to keep them away from Kunming and other populated areas. On Wednesday, the herd was in Yuxi, about 12 miles from Kunming, a city of 7 million people, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The agency noted that images taken by drones used to track the herd show six female and three male adults, three juveniles, and three calves.

Chinese wildlife authorities say they don't know why the herd left a nature reserve last year near the city of Pu'er, a region known for tea cultivation. Chen Mingyong, an expert on Asian elephants cited by Xinhua, said the incident was the longest-distance migration of wild elephants recorded in China. Chen said it was possible their leader "lacks experience and led the whole group astray." A task force of 360 people with 76 cars and nine drones was tracking the elephants, Xinhua said. Last week, the elephants wandered the streets of the town of Eshan for six hours after residents were warned to stay indoors, according to Xinhua. Damage done by the elephants to farmland is so far estimated at $1.1 million, per Xinhua.

(More elephants stories.)

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