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Wandering elephants in China head for home after year-long journey

Written by on 09/08/2021

An elephant herd which became a social media sensation with its year-long journey into urbanised parts of southern China appears to be heading back home.

The Asian elephants have been monitored throughout their adventure using drones, with footage being viewed by hundreds of millions of people.

The group has been guided across the Yuanjiang river in Yunnan and a path is being opened for them to return to the nature reserve where they lived in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.

The 14 elephants were in Yuanjiang County on Sunday night and still around 125 miles (200km) from the reserve, which they left more than a year ago for unknown reasons.

The herd, which has ventured into farms and even a retirement home for food, roamed more than 300 miles (483km) north and has been followed by a designated team involving more than 400 personnel aided by countless vehicles and 14 drones.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration said the animals are in a “suitable habitat” after crossing the river.

The provincial government said the herd’s progress was significant and officials would continue to work on returning the elephants back to their natural habitat.

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During their long adventure, roads were evacuated so they could pass safely and food was also used by the authorities to steer them away from populated areas.

After reaching the outskirts of Kunming, a centre for business and tourism, they turned south again, but are still far from the reserve.

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The herd takes a rest during its long trek

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

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.

 Sky News

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