The animals left a wildlife sanctuary in Xishuangbana in the southernmost province of Yunnan in December, where about 300 Asian elephants live in the wild.
At first, their journey through the tropical mountains was not noticed, but when they appeared in April after about 500 kilometers of hiking in urban areas, people began to suffer. Elephants peck at the doors of old people’s homes with their trunks, storm yards to empty water barrels and trample a chicken here and there – no human accidents have occurred so far. The authorities advise residents not to confront the herd, for example, by throwing fireworks at elephants. Official Chinese media reported that the damage to 56 hectares of agricultural crops has already amounted to one million dollars.
Kunming is the provincial capital
Along the way, two elephants fell and a calf was born. The herd now consists of three males, six females, three adolescents and three young. On Wednesday evening, they left Yuxi, a town known for its cigarette factories. Now it is located 20 kilometers from downtown Kunming, the provincial capital, with a population of seven million.
The herd is monitored by local authorities with 12 drones and 675 police officers. 62 vehicles ready to keep elephants away from densely populated urban areas. These vehicles block the roads to the center while the animals are directed towards sparsely populated areas with tons of pineapple, sugarcane and other delicacies. People living on Elephant Road are being evacuated as a precaution.
Meanwhile, the elephants are increasing their walking pace, a sign that the herd has become nervous around people, Zhang Li, a biologist at Beijing Normal University told Chinese state media.
The reserve in tropical Xishuangbanna is the northern habitat of the Asian elephant. It is a mystery to biologists why elephants migrate to high urban areas. However, given the distance the animals have already traveled, the chances of the herd returning to its original habitat are slim and no other wooded area with sufficient food is available. Wildlife habitats in China have shrunk and become fragmented due to urbanization and industrialization. Perhaps this was the reason for the departure of the herd. The forests of Xishuangbana are swallowed up by tea and rubber plantations.
Protection and suppression programs against poaching have increased the number of wild elephants in China from just 170 in 1980 to 300, but their habitat has been reduced to 500 square kilometers of rainforest on “islands” between highways and high-speed and industrial lines. Real estate. Human-elephant clashes are increasingly common in rural Yunnan, but this is the first time that elephants have so far been strayed into urban areas.
Millions of netizens follow the wandering flock closely on social media. The online fascination is so great that, according to the authorities, influencers are causing inconvenience along the animal’s path. These live streamers try to attract as many viewers as possible through stunts, such as eating pineapples left behind by elephants. These videos have gone viral, while the destruction of the elephant habitat gets less attention on the internet.
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