China’s wandering elephants may finally be heading home

An elephant herd that fascinated locals and people around the world by making a yearlong journey into urbanized southwest China, raiding farms and even a retirement home for food, appears finally to be headed home, reported AP.

Local authorities have deployed trucks, workers and drones to monitor the elephants, evacuated roads for them to pass safely and used food to steer them away from populated areas. No animals or humans have been injured, despite their entrance into villages and a close approach to the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming. The 14 Asian elephants of various sizes and ages were guided across the Yuanjiang river in Yunnan on Sunday night and a path is being opened for them to return to the nature reserve where they lived in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. The separated male from the herd was subsequently tranquilized and returned to the reserve. China protects Asian elephants the most and their population has grown to around 300, even while their habitat has shrunk because of expanded farming and urban growth. As of Sunday night, the herd was still in Yuanjiang County, approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the reserve. However, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said the animals were in a “suitable habitat” after crossing the river.