On Wednesday, a herd of 15 wild elephants that walked 500 kilometers (300 miles) from a nature reserve in the southwestern Chinese mountains approached the large city of Kunming as authorities rushed to try and capture them. keep away from populated areas.
Chinese wildlife authorities say they don’t know why the herd left a nature reserve last year near the town of Pu’er, an area known for growing tea. The group consisted of 16 animals, but the government says two of them returned home and a baby was born during the walk.
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Authorities blocked off traffic on the roads as the elephants passed through and put up barriers and used food as bait to try to keep them away from Kunming and other populated areas.
On Wednesday, the herd was in Yuxi, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kunming, a city of 7 million people, the state-run Xinhua news agency said. He said images taken by the drones used to track the herd showed six females and three adult males, three juveniles and three calves.
Chen Mingyong, an Asian elephant expert cited by Xinhua, said the incident was the longest-distance wild elephant migration recorded in China. Chen said it was possible that their leader “was inexperienced and misled the whole group.”
A 360-person task force with 76 cars and nine drones was tracking the elephants, Xinhua said.
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Elephants roamed the streets of Eshan town for six hours last week after residents were warned to stay indoors, according to Xinhua.
Elephant damage to farmland is estimated at 6.8 million yuan ($ 1.1 million), according to Xinhua.
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