Daily US Times: Elephants are by nature fiercely intelligent beasts and experts who study them day in day out already know a great deal about them. And yet an endangered elephant herd in China has completely dumfounded scientists globally, while captivating an entire nation in the process.
It is not unusual for elephants to move small distances, but this elephant herd has been lumbering its way across China for more than a year now. The elephants have now strayed almost 310 miles (500km), a mammoth trek from their original habitat.
It’s thought that the elephants started their journey last spring from Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in the southwest of the country, near the border with Myanmar and Laos.
In the last few months they began moving north, the elephants have popped up in a number of villages, towns and cities.
They have been seen raiding shops, smashing down doors, “stealing” food, playing around in the mud, taking a bath in a canal and napping in the middle of a forest.
They have also been spotted hoovering up crops in their wake and moseying into people’s houses – on one occasion, lining up in a courtyard to drink water, successfully turning on a tap with their trunks.
It is thought the elephants have started to move south again, and were last spotted in Shijie – a town near the city of Yuxi.
It is not clear whether they are headed back, or why they even embarked on this journey in the first place – the farthest known movement by elephants in the country. Or what might come next.
Joshua Plotnik, assistant professor of elephant psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, said: “The truth is, no-one knows. It is almost certainly related to the need for resources – food, water, shelter – and this would make sense given the fact that, in most locations where Asian elephants live in the wild, there is an increase in human disturbances leading to habitat fragmentation, loss and resource reduction.”