Elephant Herd Stomps Toward Chinese City

15 Asian elephants have strayed far from their natural habitats.

15 Asian elephants have strayed far from their natural habitats.

Last week, footage of a large herd of 15 Asian elephants made the rounds on Chinese social media. What was an interesting image at first became much more of a concern as the elephants stomped through residential farmlands, devouring crops and smashing barns. A car dealer reported that the elephants broke into his shop and drank two tonnes of water. Damages caused by the elephants are estimated to exceed 6.8 million yuan ($1.07 million USD).

The governmental task force that has been monitoring the elephants’ progression over the past week were alerted when the herd came within 3 kilometers of Kunming. It was at this point their priorities shifted away from simply monitoring and more toward directing them away from the city. Officials have been very gradually shifting the herd’s path using large roadblocks and food lures.

It isn’t entirely clear why the elephants have migrated so far north from their usual habitat, though zoologists have theorized it’s due to the gradual loss of edible forest plants.

“Large-scale human engineering developments have exacerbated the ‘islanding’ of elephant habitats,” Zhang Li, a professor on mammal conservation at Beijing Normal University told the Global Times . “The traditional buffer zones between humans and elephants are gradually disappearing, and the chances of elephants’ encountering humans naturally increase greatly.”