Chinese elephants’ epic expedition ending?
Beijing, Aug 10: Chinese wildlife protection officials believe a herd of 14 Asian elephants is heading home. The animals have travelled a route spanning more than 1,200 kilometers (800 miles) in southwestern China's Yunnan province. Authorities said the herd has managed to safely cross a bridge over the Yuan River and are on a route heading south. That will take them to a nature reserve 200 kilometers away.
The elephants' epic expedition
The herd left their home in March last year, and made its way to protected land in Puer, situated in Yunnan province.
In April this year the elephants left the safety of Puer, and tramped through the cities of Yuxi and Honghe.
They eventually reached the provincial capital of Kunming in June. Despite entering villages and coming close to to the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming, no animals or humans were injured.
A hefty headache for authorities
The more than year-long journey has presented a rather large challenge for authorities.
An emergency committee had to be established to ensure the elephants took the right route.
More than 25,000 police and other staff along with 1,500 emergency vehicles were deployed to ensure public safety. They tracked and made sure the animals were fed so as not to bring them into human settlements in search of food, which didn't always go according to plan.
Upwards of 15,000 people had to be evacuated as the animals travelled their route.
Yang Yingyong, a member of the emergency committee, said the migration route the herd is traveling was "scientifically planned"
Elephants to finally head home
Wildlife experts said that there has been a population boom among wild elephants, largely due to a ban on hunting since the 1970's. That coupled with shrinking habitat and urbanisation, has brought elephants into close contact with humans.
Shen Qinghong who is an expert with the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, said it is highly likely the elephants will head north again. "The migration and spread of the Asian elephant population is inevitable," Shen told the briefing.
Officials say they are in suitable habitat to complete the rest of their journey. To that end, the provincial government issued a notice which said the herd had made significant progress and work would continue to ensure they returned to their natural habitat.