China to guide wandering elephant herd to suitable habitat

KUNMING (XINHUA) – China’s wildlife authorities said Sunday they plan to guide the wandering herd of wild Asian elephants in southwest China’s Yunnan Province to a suitable habitat.

The elephant herd has caught global attention after they trekked about 500 kilometres from their original habitat in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in the province to enter Kunming, the provincial capital with a population of eight million.

On Saturday, 14 elephants continued to linger in the Shijie Township in the city of Yuxi, according to the headquarters in charge of monitoring their migration. Another elephant that broke away from the herd eight days ago stayed in the Jinning District of Kunming.

The headquarters said they would direct the migration of the elephants with food baits and blocking of roads, adding that it would take advantage of the favourable conditions, such as rainfalls and temperature drops in recent days, to move the elephants back to their proper habitats.

Local authorities on Saturday mobilised 319 personnel, more than 600 vehicles and 18 drones to monitor the herd and prevent human-elephant conflicts. A total of 3,548 people were evacuated on Saturday.

For over a month, authorities have sent police to escort the herd, evacuated roads to facilitate their passage and used food to distract them from entering densely populated areas.

Asian elephants are under A-level state protection in China, where they are mostly found in Yunnan. Thanks to enhanced protection efforts, the wild elephant population in the province has grown to about 300, up from 193 in the 1980s.

Aerial photo shows the herd of wild Asian elephants sleeping. PHOTO: XINHUA