Sleep, shelter from the rain, swim, or damage: no matter what the elephants are doing, millions of people watch the live streams of the escaped herd in China.
The fifteen elephants left a nature reserve a year ago. Theyve walked hundreds of miles and their trip has been attracting international media and fans since last week – when the herd came close to the city of Kunming.
For example, the food used to lure the elephants to a particular place has become a hot item for influencers in China. They took half eaten pineapples last week and filmed themselves eating them, something that didnt fall into good soil with local authorities.
Animal Rights Organizations are worried. Because the reason for the draft is probably tragic, experts say.
“Of course its spectacular to see, but the cause is probably very sad,” says Dirk-Jan Verdonk, Director of World Animal Protection. “The place they lived wasnt good enough anymore. As a group, the elephants made the conscious decision that they couldnt flourish in their old original habitat and therefore left.”
The herd left the nature reserve a year ago. Over 500 kilometres the animals have traveled. From Yunnan Province they walked to the city of Kunming. The herd consisted of sixteen elephants at the beginning of the journey, but two animals walked a different direction and a calf was born. The animals have caused more than a million dollars in damage. There are no injuries.
Over 600 police officers and 14 drones have been deployed to monitor, and film the herd.
So far the elephants have walked so far:
Mega-herbivores, such as Asian elephants, need a lot of space and food. Their habitat covers an average of 150 to 400 square kilometers, says a World Wildlife Fund (WNF) spokesperson. WWF is also concerned about the herd.
“Research has shown that Asian elephants, especially matriarchal herds, have largely fixed habitats from which they only move from in case of disruption, habitat changes or lack of sufficient food,” says a spokesperson.
In this case, we dont know the cause yet. But in Asia, the biggest threat to elephants is the loss of habitat and the resulting human and animal collisions, the WWF said. “This leads to significant damage such as eating or destroying harvests and even fatalities among humans and animals.”
Influencers: Stay Remote
According to Verdonk, the migration in China can create dangerous situations. He recommends influencers and other interested parties to stay at a distance. “They are very large heavy animals that can cause damage very easily. If people try to approach them, this may go wrong.”
Not only do elephants migrate in China, but it also happens in Tanzania. Over the past few months, 200 elephants have been pulled out of Nyerere National Park. Farmers try to scare the animals with chili peppers in their fields.
Over the past few days, the animals have swam and wandered through the forest, and that is well followed by all drones:
More than half of the planet (56 percent) live together humans and wildlife. As humans are increasingly in need of space in animal habitats, the risk of conflict is growing.
Its not just elephants departing from their old habitat, other wildlife are looking for other places, says Verdonk. “The wildlife habitat is getting smaller, fragmented and decline in quality. Then the animals seek their salvation in a different place.”
Its typical that elephants do not travel alone, unlike other wildlife. “That proves how social elephants are. It was a collective decision to move away from there. You can also see how they help each other overcome obstacles along the way. Thats very characteristic.”
The fact that the Chinese herd went to Kunming has a special symbolism, says WWF. “A UN summit on biodiversity will be organised here in the fall.” The organization says a perfect time for the organization to tackle human animal conflicts issues.