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    Elephants on tour in China guzzle crops and wreak havoc

    BEIJING (AFP) – A herd of 15 wandering elephants on an epic trek through southwestern China have entered villages to gorge on crops, broken into barns and caused a million dollars of losses.

    Over the past week, the animals drained a water tank, helped themselves to a corn field, and guzzled supplies after crashing into a barn, state broadcaster CCTV said.

    It is unclear why the wild Asian elephants, a protected species in China, strayed from the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan province.

    Their destination so far is unknown as well. But since April, the large animals have embarked on a 500 kilometre journey, closely monitored by residents and authorities, with hundreds of people mobilised to ensure public safety.

    FILE – In this aerial photo file photo taken on May 28, 2021, and released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a herd of wild Asian elephants stands in E’shan county in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province. A herd of 15 wild elephants that walked 500 kilometers (300 miles) from a nature reserve in China’s mountain southwest were approaching the major city of Kunming on Wednesday, June 2, as authorities rushed to try to keep them out of populated areas. PHOTO: Hu Chao/Xinhua via AP, File

    On Tuesday, Yunnan authorities said the herd was in a city just 20 kilometres from its provincial capital where millions live.

    Experts believe the leader of the group might have led it astray, adding that it is rare for them to trek so far. Since mid-April, the elephants have wrecked around 56 hectares of crops, causing an estimated USD1.07 million in losses, CCTV said.

    No casualties have been reported so far, with locals attempting to guide the animals with food and by blocking roads with trucks. The wild elephant population in Yunnan is around 300, up from 193 in the 1980s, reported Xinhua.

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