Have you heard about the famous herd of elephants that traveled more than 500km (300 miles) across China? If it is not, today I’m going to bring you some interesting things about their unusual trek. Their movement from their natural habitat was first detected in March 2020. It was captivated by Chinese social media.

Actually, the Asian elephant is an endangered species. There are only about 300 Asian wild elephants in China. This herd consisted of 15 elephants and they started to march from their habitat in the south of Yunnan province to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province poking their trunks through doors and hovering crops.

            Let’s go through the routine of their journey. Actually, it is not exactly clear when they left the habitat. But it was first detected in March 2020, when locals spotted a herd of elephants. It was about 100km away from the north of Xishuangbanna. Probably their habitat was Mengyangzi Nature Reserve situated in Xishuangbanna, in south-western Yunnan.


In the beginning, there were 17 elephants. But some reports say it was 16 elephants when starting the trek. In November they reached Pu’er in Yunnan. In there, a female elephant gave birth to a little calf. They were settled in that place for five months and started their journey again on the 16th of April.

A week later, after restarting the journey, two of them abandoned the trek. So 15 of the group have to continue their journey to the north. A few days later, the authorities reported that they have found one male elephant 4km away from the group in the northeast direction.

The government and authorities had deployed more than 410 personnel, 14 drones, and 374 vehicles to track this herd. They were armed with more than 10 tons of elephant foods such as corn and pineapples. And also there were trucks to divert those animals onto a safe path. The residents of those areas have been told by the government not to disturb animals with firecrackers and not to leave corn outside.

Even though there was a video on social media which showed running people down the streets shouting ‘they are coming!’. One elder man had said that he hid under his bed as trunks of those elephants were poked into his room. The Yunnan government mentioned that this herd of elephants caused trouble 412 times during their trek. According to official reports, the total damage done by this herd of elephants is more than 1 million dollars!

The reason for this journey is actually not clear. Some suggested that it may be because of an inexperienced leader. Some others believed that they searched for a new habitat. And also there were some humorous posts about their trek on Chinese social media. One post said that these elephants wanted to attend the UN Biodiversity Conference meeting which was planned to take place in Kunming.

Even though some people took it simply, it is actually a serious issue. It is a result of increasing disputes between farmers and elephants in Yunnan. According to Li Zhongyuan, a forestry official in Xishuangbanna, the traditional diet of these elephants has depreciated in their habitats. So those animals are changing to different agricultural crops like corn and sugar cane. And also Li Zhongyuan also warns that there may be similar treks in the future because of reducing habitats of these elephants with the planting of cash crops like rubber.


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