The herd, which has been roaming for about 17 months, is now on its way back safely to a nature reserve in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
They began to return to their habitat after crossing the Yuanjiang River on Sunday, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The herd became a global sensation after traveling over 700 km from their original home in the far south of the country, near the Thai border where the nature reserve is located, and began an expedition north.
From food baits to putting up roadblocks, Chinese authorities have tried different ways of directing the group to suitable habitats throughout their journey.
They tried to follow their movements by deploying hundreds of people and to prevent any conflict if they landed in human settlements, although there have been incidents where the herd looted farms and a nursing home for Eat.
Authorities cut off the power supply to prevent the elephants from electrocuting each other and sent police to evacuate the roads or distract them from the densely populated areas using around 18 drones.
The herd passed through counties like Mojiang, Yuanjiang, Shiping and E’shan before entering Jinning District in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, on June 2.
Months of effort finally paid off, after it was reported on Saturday that stray elephants were found entering the forest near the Ganzhuang community in Yuanjiang County, Yunnan. All would have been in good condition.
The elephants were still in Yuanjiang County about 200 km from the reserve on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Asian elephants are threatened with extinction and have received China’s Level A state protection for wildlife. They are mainly found in Yunnan province.
In recent decades, the number of elephants in the province has nearly doubled due to increased protection efforts. Wildlife experts believe this could be a possible reason for their migration.
“The reason for the migration of this herd is still not clear, but the possible reasons could be the lack of food, the increase in elephant numbers and most importantly – the loss of habitat”, Evan Sun, manager of the World Animal Protection nonprofit wildlife campaign, China, said.
Increased human activities, including agriculture and urban growth, have resulted in a narrowing of the buffer zones between humans and elephants, increasing the risk of encroachment on the latter’s habitats.