A herd of 15 wild elephants approached Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, on Wednesday, defying attempts to divert its course after a trek of hundreds of kilometers from the forests of the south.
The Asian elephant group, which includes three calves, originally lived in a nature reserve, and crossed nearly 500 kilometers along roads and farmland in the past three months, Xinhua news agency reported.
The animals were within a few kilometers of the farthest city of Kunming, which has a population of about 8 million, on Wednesday afternoon, according to state television CCTV.
While it is unclear why the elephants are headed north, the Xinhua report said the decline of edible plants in forest habitats is putting pressure on the animals whose numbers have increased in Yunnan in recent decades.
Conflicts between villagers and elephants can arise when they leave protected areas, enter villages and feed on crops. Xinhua News Agency reported that the elephant herd in question had already caused losses estimated at $1.1 million.
Municipal governments in Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, have used roadblocks and tons of food in an attempt to divert the elephants’ course in recent weeks and evacuated residential areas.