China’s wandering elephants may finally be heading home

An elephant herd that has fascinated locals and people around the world by making a year-long journey into urbanised southwest China, raiding farms and even a retirement home for food, are finally heading home.

Local authorities have deployed trucks, workers and drones to monitor the elephants, evacuated roads for them to pass safely and used food to steer them away from populated areas. Despite their entrance into villages and a close approach to the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming, no animals or humans have been injured.

An aerial view of a herd of wild Asian elephants strolling through a village at Ning’er Hani and Yi Autonomous County on August 7, 2021. Picture: Wang Zhengpeng/VCG via Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

On Sunday, the 14 Asian elephants of various sizes and ages were guided across the Yuanjiang river in Yunnan. Now, a path is being opened for them to return to the nature reserve where they lived in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.

It is understood the elephants left the reserve more than a year ago for unknown reasons and roamed more than 500 kilometres north. After reaching the outskirts of Kunming, a centre for business and tourism, they turned south again, but still are far from the reserve.

One male that separated from the herd was subsequently tranquillised and returned to the reserve.

Asian elephants are among the most highly protected animals in China. Picture: Wang Zhengpeng/VCG via Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

Asian elephants are among the most highly protected animals in China and their population has grown to around 300, even while their habitat has shrunk because of expanded farming and urban growth.

As of Sunday night, the herd was still in Yuanjiang County, approximately 200km from the reserve.

However, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said the animals were in a “suitable habitat” after crossing the river.

A notice issued by provincial government said the herd’s progress was significant and it would continue to work on getting the elephants back in their natural habitat soon.

This article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission

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