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China's wandering elephants may finally be heading home after traveling over 800 miles

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/10/2021 Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
a train traveling down a dirt road: In this aerial file photo taken May 28, 2021, and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a herd of wild Asian elephants walks 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, AP In this aerial file photo taken May 28, 2021, and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a herd of wild Asian elephants walks 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.

After a 18-month-long journey, a herd of wandering elephants in China appear to be heading home.

The 14 Asian elephants, down from 16 that began the trek, have made an 807-mile journey and now appear to be headed toward a protected habitat in southwest China's Yunnan providence, Reuters reported.

The herd had help from local authorities to guide their path, with food and evacuated roads to keep the elephants away from villages or populated areas. No animals or humans have been injured in the journey, according to the Associated Press.

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Reuters reports more than 150,000 people were evacuated as the elephants made their trek and more than $771,000 in insurance money was paid out due to property damage. 

The elephants left the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, a nature reserve, near the city of Pu’er in March of 2020 and Chinese wildlife authorities did not know why. Along the way, two of the elephants returned home.

They reached the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kunming in June before turning back south.


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Shrinking natural habitats and increased infrastructure did not hinder the Asian elephants, one of China's highly protected animals, from growing their population to around 300, the AP reported.

The herd still has 125 miles to go before returning home but the National Forestry and Grassland Administration told the AP the animals were in a “suitable habitat” after crossing the Yuanjiang river.

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Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: agilbert@usatoday.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: China's wandering elephants may finally be heading home after traveling over 800 miles

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