A herd of 15 Asian elephants, including three calves, is approaching the Chinese city of Kunming. The animals have trekked 500km from their habitat in a nature reserve near the borders with Myanmar and Laos. The elephants are near the outskirts of the city of 6.6 million people. They have travelled along highways and through farms over the past few months. A Chinese TV station said that over the past week, the animals guzzled down water from a farm's water tank and feasted on kilos of corn and other crops. Their journey has been captivating the Chinese public.
Experts are now trying to keep the herd away from Kunming city. They are setting up barriers to get it to go back towards the nature reserve. No one knows why the animals walked so far away from their original habitat. One reason could be a decline in the amount of edible plants in their reserve, especially supplies of their favourite foods, like plume grass. Another reason could be a rise in numbers in the wild elephant population in the area, from 193 in the 1980s to around 300 today. A further possibility is that the leader of the herd could have led it astray.