China elephants: Wandering herd take well deserved rest

image copyrightChina Central Television (CCTV)image captionAuthorities say the herd might be heading home

A herd of wandering Asian elephants which has achieved fame in China has been spotted taking a nap in a forest.

The herd was seen resting near a village in Xiyang township after heavy rain slowed down its travels.

The animals have been trekking the country for about 15 months in an extraordinary 500km (300-mile) trip away from their natural habitat.

Authorities are closely monitoring their migration as the elephants roam through fields, villages and cities.

The local government has deployed 14 drones and some 500 people to keep the herd safe, close roads and try to steer the elephants to the south-west, CGTN reported.

Previous efforts to turn them around have failed, but the herd seems to be turning back and heading home, probably to the Mengyangzi Nature Reserve in Xishuangbanna, in south-west Yunnan province.

There are 15 elephants in the herd, including three calves. One male has broken free and is currently about 4km away from the rest of the group, according to the Yunnan Forest Firefighting Brigade which is in charge of monitoring them.

image copyrightChina Central Television (CCTV)image captionWhile the older elephants rested, a calf could be seen trying to climb over themimage copyrightReutersimage captionThe herd took a main road through Eshan during their travels

The animals have been eating millions of dollars worth of crops, damaging buildings and poking their trunks through doors and windows during their march. It included a visit to the city of Kunming, where millions of people live.

  • Herd on mammoth 500km trek reaches Kunming

It is unclear exactly when or why they left their habitat to embark on the journey, which has captivated people around the world.

Some have suggested an inexperienced leader may have led the herd astray, while other believe the elephants could be searching for a new habitat.

The Asian elephant is an endangered species. China has only about 300 wild elephants, mainly in the south of Yunnan province.

Scientists say this is the furthest any of the wild elephants there have travelled from the habitat.

media captionThe elephants have been filmed in a number of Chinese cities

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