China’s herd of wandering elephants takes a rest after 500km trek.

China’s famous herd of wandering elephants has stopped for a rest after a 15-month journey far out of their natural habitat, an odyssey that has captivated the country.

Authorities have marshalled extraordinary resources to monitor the herd and keep it away from residential areas. According to Chinese media, the Yunnan forest fire brigade said a team of eight people were tracking the elephants, 24 hours a day, both on the ground and by drone from the air.

In the latest update, authorities said the herd of wild Asian elephants had been tracked to a forest just outside a village in Xiyang township, in Yunnan, around 90km southwest of Kunming city, heading back in the direction from which they came.

The herd rests in a forest near Kunming, in China’s southwest Yunnan province. Photograph: China Central Television/AFP via Getty

The herd rests in a forest near Kunming, in China’s southwest Yunnan province. Photograph: China Central Television/AFP via Getty

Drone images showed the elephants lying down in the forest, resting during their travels which have so far covered 500km.

On Monday more than 410 emergency personnel, 374 vehicles and 14 drones were deployed 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.

“Temporary traffic control will be implemented on some road sections to keep them calm and create conditions for the elephants to move westward and south,” Beijing News said.

Wildlife authorities are struggling to understand why the group of 16 elephants went on the move last year. According to Xinhua News Agency, 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 April 16th.

June 4th: The herd grazes near Shuanghe township in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province. Photograph: Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade via AP

June 4th: The herd grazes near Shuanghe township in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province. Photograph: Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade via AP

A week later, two left the group, leaving 15 to continue their odyssey to the north. The group now appears to be back on the right track, heading southwest, although on Monday authorities reported one male elephant was traced away from the group, 4km to the northeast.

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 6.8 million yuan (€873,000) in damage, according to state media. – Guardian

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