China’s famous herd of wandering elephants have stopped for a well-earned rest after a record 300-mile trek across the country following their escape from a nature reserve.
The 15-strong group of wild Asian elephants has been wandering towards the city of Kunming, in Yunnan province, since April 16 when they broke out of a nature reserve in Xishuangbanna Dai prefecture.
They are now in the countryside in the Xinyang Township, around 55 miles south-west of Kunming, and were spotted looking exhausted as the group lay down in a forest with their legs and trunks sprawled out over the ground.
The herd appear to be sleeping in a pyramid shape as one baby elephant can be seen clinging onto an adult’s leg whilst one rests its trunk on another.
The elephants have come as close as two miles from the southern-most suburbs of regional capital Kunming, sparking fears they could enter the city and cause chaos.
The migrating herd of wild Asian elephants look exhausted as the group lay down together in a forest, with their legs and trunks sprawled out over the ground
A baby elephant looks content as it rests its front legs on the back of another sleeping elephant in the forest on Monday
A baby elephant is seen sprawled on the back of a sleeping elephant as the animals rest after their 300 mile trek on Monday
Nap time! An elephant sleeps with its herd after walking 300 miles across China in a forest near the Xinyang Township
Since beginning their epic journey, the elephants have wandered the streets, broke into barns and munched their way through farmland, causing an estimated 6.8 million yuan ($1.1 million) worth of damagea
Roads have been blocked using lorries while 18 tons of pineapples and corn have been scattered in an attempt to lead the elephants away from the city’s Jinning district.
During their epic journey, the elephants have been caught at night trotting down urban streets by security cameras, filmed constantly from the air by more than a dozen drones and followed by those seeking to minimise damage and keep both pachyderms and people out of harm’s way.
But the wild animals caused have caused mayhem by walking down urban roads and sticking their trunks through residential windows in Kunming, despite officials’ efforts to divert them away from the populated southwestern city of seven million people.
They have raided farms for food and water, visited a car dealership and even showed up at a retirement home, where they poked their trunks into some of the rooms, prompting one elderly man to hide under his bed.
The elephants have also broken into barns and munched their way through farmland, causing an estimated 6.8 million yuan ($1.1 million) worth of damage.
Roads have been blocked using lorries while 18 tons of pineapples and corn have been scattered in an attempt to lead the elephants away from the city’s Jinning district
Elephants are a protected species in China, meaning the herd will not be destroyed, while wildlife officers are also keen to avoid using tranquilizers on the infants. Pictured: The elephants are left to roam through the neighbourood near the Shuanghe Township, Jinning District of Kunming city in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province on June 4
The herd of 15 elephants left a trail of destruction as they reached the outskirts of Kunming last week
The wild animals have caused mayhem by walking down urban roads, eating farm crops (pictured) and sticking their trunks through residential windows in Kunming, despite officials’ efforts to divert them away from the populated southwestern city
Authorities urged residents to avoid contact with the elephants after the herd reached the Jinning district on the edge of Kunming, a city of seven million residents, late on Wednesday night. Pictured: Elephant walks up driveway to a house
Video footage (pictured), taken from the ground and by air by dozens of drones, shows the elephants wreaking havoc as they ploughed through residential streets, walked up people’s driveways, and munched on farm crops
The wild animals have caused mayhem by walking down urban roads and sticking their trunks through residential windows on the outskirts of Kunming, despite officials’ efforts to divert them away from the populated southwestern city of seven million people.
Last week, video footage, taken from the ground and by air by dozens of drones, showed the elephants wreaking havoc as they ploughed through residential streets, walked up people’s driveways, and munched on farm crops.
The adventures of the huge mammals have captivated the nation, with hundreds of millions taking to social media to discuss their journey.
Elephants are given the top level of protection in China, allowing their numbers to steadily increase even as their natural habitat shrinks, and requiring farmers and others to exercise maximum restraint when encountering them.
It means that the herd will not be destroyed, while wildlife officers are also keen to avoid using tranquilizers on the infants.
A herd has been spotted just two miles from the outskirts of Kunming city, home to 7million people (pictured on May 28)
The herd has passed through towns and smaller cities along their route – closing down streets (pictured), raiding barns, munching farm crops and causing damage worth an estimated $1million
Government orders have told people to stay inside and not to gawk at them or use firecrackers or otherwise attempt to scare them away.
So far, more passive means are being used to keep them out of urban areas, including the parking of trucks and construction equipment to block roads and the use of food drops to lure them away.
As of Tuesday, the herd remained on the outskirts of Kunming, a city of seven million, with one of the males having moved away on his own, creating even more excitement – and worry – for those attempting to keep tabs on them.
A news release on Monday from a provincial command centre set up to monitor the group said the elephants appeared to be resting, while more than 410 emergency response personnel and police personnel, scores of vehicles and 14 drones were deployed to monitor them.
Area residents were evacuated, temporary traffic control measures implemented, and two tons of elephant food put in place.
Another objective was to ‘maintain silence to create conditions for guiding the elephant group to migrate west and south’, the command centre said.
Animal experts told Xinhua news agency that it is unclear what has motivated the elephants’ migration, which is the longest ever recorded in China.
But they said it is possible that the pack leader ‘lacks experience and led the whole group astray.’
The elephants were spotted in E’shan county on May 28 (pictured) before migrating even further to the north, sparking fears they could try to enter Kunming as police and wildlife officers race to stop them
Experts say it is unclear what caused the herd – three males, six females, three juveniles and three calves – to migrate, but say it is possible that an inexperienced male leader ‘got lost’
The initial herd consisted of 16 elephants, but two of them turned around during the trek and went home. A calf was then born during the walk, bringing the total to its current 15.
Observers say the group now consists of six adult females, three adult males, three juveniles and three calves of unknown sex.
The wild herd had been living in the Xishuangbanna Dai Nature Reserve until moving out of the area more than a month ago.
Two weeks ago, the elephants wandered on to the streets of a town called Eshan, close to Yuxi, and remained there for six hours with residents warned to stay indoors.
During that time, the elephants wandered the streets, broke into barns, ate out of rubbish bins and munched their way through nearby farmland.
Damage done by the elephants to farmland along their route is currently estimated at 6.8 million yuan ($1.1 million), according to Xinhua.