Residents have been instructed to maintain a safe distance from the animals.

By Cailey Rizzo
June 03, 2021
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Chinese authorities are trying to keep a herd of 15 wild elephants out of a major city after the animals traveled more than 300 miles by foot from a nature reserve.

A total of 675 policemen, 62 emergency trucks, 12 drones and 11 tons of food have been deployed to keep the herd of wild elephants from entering the city of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, according to the South China Morning Post.

herd of wild Asian elephants
Credit: Hu Chao/Xinhua via Getty

For the past few months, the herd has been walking from Mengyangzi Nature Reserve in the southwest corner of Yunnan. But it was only last month that the public took notice of the elephants as they moved towards the city of Xishuangbanna.

Last week, the elephants entered the village of Eshan and plodded down the main road, which had been evacuated and blocked by police. Video footage of people running down the street ahead of a police car ahead of the elephants went viral on Douyin, China's version of TikTok.

The Kunming government issued a warning for residents to remove food like corn or salt from their yard. Residents have also been instructed to maintain a safe distance from the elephants.

Authorities are continuing to monitor the elephants' path via drone.

It's estimated that the elephants caused more than $1.1 million in damage to farmland on their trek.

Chen Mingyong, an Asian elephant expert, told Xinhua news agency that this is the longest-distance wild elephant migration recorded in China, The Associated Press reported. Chen said it's possible that the leader "lacks experience and led the whole group astray."

Other scientists believe that the elephants are looking for new habitats as forests are threatened by rubber and tea plantations, according to The AP.

There are about 300 wild elephants left in China, mainly in the Yunnan province. The animals are under first-level protection, the strictest species protection China has.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.