China tries to keep herd of wild elephants out of city of 7 million

Beijing: A herd of 15 wild elephants has walked 500 kilometres from a nature reserve in China’s mountainous south-west and is approaching the major city of Kunming as authorities rush to try to keep the animals out of populated areas.

Chinese wildlife authorities say they don’t know why the herd left a nature reserve last year near the city of Pu’er, a region known for tea cultivation. The group was 16 animals, but the government says two returned home and a baby was born during the walk.

The herd of wild elephants pictured in Eshan county in Yunnan Province last week.Credit:Xinhua via AP

Authorities have blocked traffic on roads while the elephants cross and were setting up barriers and using food as bait to try to keep them away from Kunming and other populated areas.

On Wednesday, local time, the herd was in Yuxi, about 20 kilometres from Kunming, a city of 7 million people, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said images taken by drones used to track the herd show six female and three male adults, three juveniles and three calves.

Chen Mingyong, an Asian elephant expert cited by Xinhua, said the incident was the longest-distance migration of wild elephants recorded in China. Chen said it was possible their leader “lacks experience and led the whole group astray”.

The elephants wandered the streets of Eshan for six hours last week.Credit:Xinhua via AP

A taskforce of 360 people with 76 cars and nine drones was tracking the elephants, Xinhua said.

Last week, the elephants wandered the streets of the town of Eshan for six hours after residents were warned to stay indoors, according to Xinhua.

Damage done by the elephants to farmland is estimated at 6.8 million yuan ($1.4 million), according to Xinhua.

AP

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