Herd of Elephants Scare Chinese Residents, Destroy Over $1M in Crops During 300-Mile Trek

A herd of elephants in southwest China have made a 300-mile (500 kilometer) trek away from their nature reserve, and although no injuries have been reported, the elephants destroyed more than $1 million worth of crops and scared locals.

The 15 elephants originally came from the nature reserve in the southwest region of Yunnan, but it's unclear why they began wandering through farmland, villages and even on paved roads in urban areas, the Associated Press reported.

The animals appear healthy, and have been monitored and documented by drones on the ground and from the air.

On Tuesday, the elephants showed up outside a retirement home, and poked their trunks into a few of the rooms. Jimu News, an online news channel, interviewed the residents who had been startled by the elephants. One elderly man had been scared when an elephant poked its trunk into his room, and hid under his bed.

Authorities have attempted to block the elephants' path on roads by using construction equipment, and have told locals to stay indoors.

They are hoping to lure the animals away from more populated areas such as the province's capital by using food.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Man walks next to elephant
A mahout walks next to his elephant through a busy street in Horana, a suburb of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo on March 23, 2021. A herd of 15 elephants is wandering the Chinese province of Yunnan on a trip that took them 300 miles away from their home. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP via Getty Images

One city along their route, Yuxi, deployed hundreds of trucks along a road to discourage the herd from approaching, the Beijing News reported. Drivers ate and slept in the vehicles for days, even as they heard the elephants moving about after dark, the newspaper said in a video clip posted online.

The Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday that the herd by late Wednesday night had reached the Jinning district on the edge of Kunming, a city of 7 million people that is the capital of Yunnan province.

The government of the semi-rural district issued a notice urging residents not to leave corn or other food out in their yards that might attract the animals and to avoid contact with them.

It was "forbidden to surround and gawk at the elephants" or to disturb them by using firecrackers or other materials, the notice said.

Sixteen animals were originally in the group, but the government says two returned home and a baby was born during the walk. The herd is now composed of six female and three male adults, three juveniles and three calves, according to official reports.

When and how the elephants will be returned to the reserve isn't clear.

Elephants are the largest land animals in Asia and can weigh up to 5 tons.

Elephants wander China
FILE - In this aerial photo file photo taken on May 28, 2021, and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a herd of wild Asian elephants stands in E'shan county in southwestern China's Yunnan Province. A herd of 15 wild elephants that walked 500 kilometers (300 miles) from a nature reserve in China's mountain southwest were approaching the major city of Kunming on Wednesday, June 2, as authorities rushed to try to keep them out of populated areas. Hu Chao/Xinhua via AP