The Mystery Behind China’s Wandering Elephants Finally Comes To Close


Sierra Ayers, Reporter

14 wild Asian elephants have embarked on an 18 month, 800+ mile journey from their habitat in China. They were previously located in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, located in the south providence of Yunnan and left their nature reserve for reasons unknown. Though wild elephants venturing off from the reserve is not unheard of, no animal has ever traveled this far without looking back.

The young African elephants following after their herd.

There, of course, has been speculation of why this herd of elephants has run away from home, some saying they were looking for better food or resources, while others believe that due to the growing elephant population, the elephants were simply looking for a more roomy home. “The elephants are running out of physical space to move without interacting with people, crops, or infrastructure,” says Prof Campos-Arceiz, a principal investigator at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. Human disturbances have been a huge cause of unrest among nature, as habitat disruption, resource shortage, and loss of space has become more and more common.

However, the trip has not been uneventful! There have been various evacuations of cities due to the herd of elephants barrelling straight through, and the property damage bill is wracking up. They’ve been raiding shops, trampling houses, eating any crops they can find, and slurping down water from wherever they can reach. You may rest assured though, as officials have been patrolling drones to keep watch and laying out food, like pineapple, corn, and other yummy food to make sure the elephants stay healthy and calm. Although these elephants are resilient, 2 of the herd decided to turn back mid trip, making the total drop down to 13 elephants. Excitingly, to fill the hole from the departing duo, they gained a few new comrades as it was reported that at least 2 elephants gave birth mid-trip.

Despite their treacherous journey, it has been reported that they made a turn back home and are currently 200 km outside of their Xishuangbanna reserve. Officials have been setting up electrical fences, bait, and artificial roads to steer them the right way, making sure the herd doesn’t harm themselves or anyone else. Although they made the run around and are back near their habitat, there is no guarantee that they will ever return or retreat back to their habitat to reside permanently once more.

The group migrating back home.

While we have no idea what the future holds for this herd, or even why they left in the first place, their journey will go down in history as a memorable yet odd trek for their species. The world will remember the endangered African elephants thanks to their documented expedition across China.