China’s stray elephants could finally return home

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BEIJING (AP) – A herd of elephants that fascinated locals and people around the world by taking a year-long trip to urbanized southwest China, looting farms and even a nursing home for to feed, seems to finally return home.

Local authorities deployed trucks, workers and drones to monitor the elephants, cleared roads so they could pass safely, and used food to keep them away from populated areas. Despite their entry into the villages and a close approach to the capital of Yunnan province, Kunming, no animals or humans were injured.

On Sunday evening, the 14 Asian elephants of different sizes and ages crossed the Yuanjiang River in Yunnan and a path is opened for them to return to the nature reserve where they lived in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.

The elephants left the reserve over a year ago for unknown reasons and have traveled over 500 kilometers (300 miles) to the north. After reaching the outskirts of Kunming, a business and tourism center, they turned south again, but are still far from the reserve.

A male who separated from the herd was subsequently tranquilized and returned to the reserve.

Asian elephants are among the best protected animals in China, and their population has grown to around 300, even as their habitat has shrunk due to expanding agriculture and urban growth.

As of Sunday evening, the herd was still in Yuanjiang County, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the reserve.

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

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


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