A herd of 15 wild Asian elephants has roamed over 300 miles in the southwest China province of Yunnan, according to NBC News. The herd is now approaching Kunming, the capital of Yunnan and home to 8 million people. Authorities fear deadly accidents between residents and the wild elephants, said The Washington Post.

  • The elephants have caused about $1.1 million in damages, said NBC News.
  • Authorities have unsuccessfully tried redirecting the elephants with roadblocks and fruit, said The Guardian.

According to The South China Morning Post, the herd will enter the outer districts of Yunnan on Wednesday at their current rate of speed.

Where did the elephants come from?

The herd of elephants left their natural habitat — Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in the southwest corner of Yunnan — in March last year, said The Washington Post and NBC News. They have traveled north through fields, forests and villages.

Authorities have evacuated residential areas ahead of the herd’s path. The elephants have destroyed corn crops, smashed barns, entered towns, banged on doors and even drank two tons of water from a car dealership, reported The Guardian.

  • Local authorities have given the elephants 18 tons of food and used 76 trucks to form a roadblock in attempts to redirect the elephants away from populated areas, said The South China Morning Post. The efforts have been unsuccessful.
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Why are the elephants migrating?

Asian elephants naturally migrate but a migration this far north is “unprecedented,” reported The Washington Post. The elephants are likely searching for food and territory, both dwindling and endangering their natural habitat.

  • Asian elephants have been an endangered species since 1986, said The South China Morning Post.
  • Only about 300 Asian elephants live in the wild, most in Yunnan.
  • Natural habitats for Asian elephants have shrunk significantly in recent years, being turned into rubber and tea plantations, reported The Guardian.
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“The traditional buffer zones between humans and elephants are gradually disappearing, and the chances of elephants’ encountering humans naturally increase greatly,” according to Professor Zhang Li at Beijing Normal University via The Guardian.

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