Long rows of trucks have lined roads in southwestern China to try and block the path of 15 wild elephants that have caused havoc on the outskirts of a city of millions.
The elephants wandered 500 kilometres north from their natural habitat — the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan province — and have stomped through rural communities near the provincial capital Kunming, home to more than eight million people.State broadcaster CCTV on Sunday showed a long convoy of trucks parked along a small countryside road, lined on both sides by lush green foliage, in a bid to keep the herd away from densely populated areas.
“We are here to block the elephants,” one truck driver in a red vehicle told CCTV.
“Traffic police officers said they need some trucks. As long as I’m needed, I will stay here.”
Authorities have also mobilised thousands of people to track the herd’s movements with drones and infrared cameras.
CCTV showed the elephants wandering casually into villagers’ backyards over the weekend, leaving flattened trees and crumpled garage doors in their wake.
“The herd was wandering in the village all day long,” one nervous villager told CCTV.“We came out and saw an elephant about three meters tall. It really scared us.”
State TV showed food and bowls scattered on the floor of one kitchen after an elephant had trampled through.
Since mid-April, the elephants have wrecked around 56 hectares of crops, causing an estimated 6.8 million yuan ($1.07 million) in losses, CCTV said.
It is not clear exactly why they migrated from their original habitat.
Chinese social media users have been captivated by the journey and have widely speculated on possible causes.
One user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform posted a screenshot of several news articles about rainforest destruction in the elephants’ habitat, writing: “I hope officials can give a response.”
It received more than 31,000 likes since it was posted Sunday.
“The media always focus on the ‘cute’ aspect of the elephants’ migration, which I find quite disgusting,” read a reply that received over 6,000 likes.
“Normally animals migrate when there’s not enough to eat.”
The wild elephant population in southwestern Yunnan is around 300, up from 193 in the 1980s, reported official news agency Xinhua.
But there have been more reports of such elephants wandering into villages and harming crops in recent years, with the plants they usually eat gradually replaced by non-edible varieties as forests expand, said local officials.