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A herd of 15 wild elephants is approaching a city of 6.6 million people in China. The group of Asian elephants has trekked nearly 500km from their habitat in a nature reserve in the south of Yunnan province, near the borders with Myanmar and Laos. China's official news agency, Xinhua, reports that there are three calves in the herd. The giant beasts are heading north to the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunming. They have travelled along highways and through fields of crops over the past few months. A Chinese TV station said that over the past week, the animals guzzled down the water in a water tank and feasted on kilos of corn in farmers' fields. Their journey has been captivating the Chinese public.

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Authorities are now attempting to ensure the herd does not enter Kunming city. Experts are coaxing the animals into taking detours that will get them to head back towards their nature reserve. It is unclear as to why the animals have migrated so far away from their original habitat. One reason could be a decline in the amount of edible plants in their reserve. Naturally growing supplies of the elephants' favorite foods, such as plume grass, have fallen. Another factor could be a rise in elephant numbers. Xinhua reports that the wild elephant population in Yunnan Province is around 300, up from 193 in the 1980s. A further explanation offered is that the leader of the herd could have simply led it astray.



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