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Jumbo jumble: Elephant herd weaves around in Yuxi City
Updated 09:43, 15-Jun-2021
CGTN
00:51

China's famous herd of wandering elephants continued to linger in the Shijie Township in the city of Yuxi, southwest China's Yunnan Province as of June 14.

A male elephant that strayed nine days ago was about 17.4 kilometers away from the herd, and all the 15 elephants were safe and sound, according to the headquarters in charge of monitoring their migration.

Photo of the male elephant when it was in the herd in Yunan Province, southwest China. Yang Jinghao/ CGTN

Photo of the male elephant when it was in the herd in Yunan Province, southwest China. Yang Jinghao/ CGTN

The herd wandered into a small town in Yimen County in Yuxi City on Wednesday. Earlier on June 7 at 4:50 p.m. BJT, the migrating pack made a stop after rambling through the suburbs of Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital. On June 8, a drone monitoring their movement captured footage showing the jumbos snoozing after the long trek. According to Yunnan Network, they left Kunming and entered Yimen County on June 8, as seen at 11:15 p.m.

The male elephant that strayed from the group four days ago was seen in the forests some 12 kilometers away on June 9. No human-elephant conflict has occurred in the newest location, and no new damage reported.

Photo of the male elephant who has strayed from the group. Yang Jinghao/ CGTN

Photo of the male elephant who has strayed from the group. Yang Jinghao/ CGTN

Local authorities continued to take various measures to ensure the safety of both the giant creatures and nearby residents. The provincial forestry department kept track of the movement of the animals via drones. But the effort was impeded by downpours. More than 300 heavy trucks were mobilized to form temporary barricades at some key points to prevent the elephants from entering populated areas. Meanwhile, some 2.1 tons of food were put in designated areas for the herd.

In the areas where the elephants are expected to travel, some 3,000 families have been evacuated to safe locations. Staff at the command headquarters will keep a close watch on the elephants and analyze their possible migration routes while working to divert them southwestward.

Monitoring images show that the herd now includes six female adult elephants, two male adults, three sub-adults, and three cubs.

The elephant herd. Yang Jinghao/CGTN

The elephant herd. Yang Jinghao/CGTN

Timeline:

March 15, 2020 - Sixteen wild Asian elephants left Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve to Pu'er City and kept heading northward.

December 15, 2020 - One adult elephant dropped out, and two were born in the journey, according to Xinhua. The herd later arrived in Mojiang County on Pu'er City.

April 16, 2021 - The 17 elephants migrated from Mojiang County to Yuanjiang County in Yuxi City.

April 24, 2021 - Two of the elephants returned to Mojiang County after gaining access to alcohol at a villager's home and getting inebriated, while the remaining 15 elephants continued their journey.

May 27, 2021 - The elephants came upon the town of Eshan in Yuxi City and walked the streets for six hours after authorities evacuated pedestrians and vehicles and warned residents to stay indoors.

May 29, 2021 - The elephants were found entering Hongta District in Yuxi City, following a long journey from Xishuangbanna starting from this April. They were around 100 kilometers away from Kunming, and over 400 kilometers away from their original habitat in Xishuangbanna.

May 31, 2021 - The herd arrived at the junction of Luohe Township and Dayingjie Street in Hongta District in Yuxi City. The staff used food to guide the elephants away from the city.

June 1, 2021 - The elephants entered Xinzhai Village in Yuxi City, which is only about 2 or 3 kilometers away from Jinning District. 

June 2, 2021 - At 9:55 p.m., the wild elephants entered Jinning District in Kunming City, according to Xinhua.

June 4, 2021 - By 5:00 p.m., the jumbo club tacked 6.6 kilometers southwest instead of heading north.

June 6, 2021 - By 4:50 p.m., the elephants moved 5.5 kilometers west of their previous location in thunderstorm, and an adult male elephant left the group and moved away for 1.5 kilometers.

June 7, 2021 - By 4:50 p.m., the elephants made a halt to get some rest.

June 8, 2021 - By 6:30 p.m. the male elephant stayed in the forests of Anning, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Kunming.

                      - By 11:15 p.m. the herd of 14 elephants left Kunming City and entered Yimen County in Yuxi City.              

June 9, 2021 - The herd wandered in a small town of Yimen County in Yuxi City while the stray male elephant stayed in the forests some 12 kilometers away from the group.

June 11, 2021 - By 11:33 p.m., the herd had headed 8.12 kilometers further southwest in Shijie Township in Yuxi City while the stray male elephant left Anning City at 5:40 p.m., moved 6.15 kilometers to the south, and entered Jinning District, 14.3 kilometers away from the herd.

June 15, 2021 - By 12:25 a.m., the herd has been weaving around a small area of Shijie Township in Yuxi City.

What has made these endangered animals leave their habitat and march north is still a mystery. According to the Yunnan Forestry and Grassland Bureau, with more environmental protection measures taken, the forest canopy density and coverage rate have increased significantly in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve. Inedible woody plants have gradually taken the place of undergrowth vegetation, such as plantains, one of their favorite foods. Some researchers suspect that the reduction of plants to feed on is one reason that forced the herd to move out of their protected areas.

Asian elephants are under first-class national protection in China and are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. The population of wild Asian elephants has been increasing in China. There were only 193 wild Asian elephants in the 1980s.

The unusual movement of these wild elephants has gained international attention. On June 2, TV Asahi reported the ongoing voyage, analyzing the possible reasons behind the migration.

A screenshot of TV Asahi's report on June 2, 2021, saying the elephants have moved over 500 kilometers from the original habitat and were only several kilometers away from Kunming City. /TV Asahi

A screenshot of TV Asahi's report on June 2, 2021, saying the elephants have moved over 500 kilometers from the original habitat and were only several kilometers away from Kunming City. /TV Asahi

For more:

A special interview with an Asian elephant in the migrating herd

Wild elephant herd less than 20 km from Jinning District, Kunming

Herd of 15 Yunnan elephants continue migration, leave experts puzzled

Wild Asian elephants migrate northward in SW China

(All images via VCG. Video and updated information provided by Forest Fire Brigade of Yunnan Province.)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at nature@cgtn.com.)

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