A herd of 15 wild elephants approached Kunming City, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, on Wednesday, defying attempts to divert them south from the forests after traveling hundreds of miles.
The group of Asian elephants, which includes three calves, originally lived in a wildlife sanctuary, according to official Xinhua, and has migrated about 300 miles along highways and through fields in recent months.
According to the state television broadcaster CCTV, on the afternoon of June 2 they were just a few kilometers from the outskirts of Kunming, a city of around 8 million people.
Although it is unclear why the elephants are moving north, the Xinhua report said a decline in edible plants in forest habitats has put pressure on animals, whose numbers have increased in Yunnan over the past few decades.
Conflicts between villagers and elephants can arise when they leave protected areas to enter villages and eat grain. This herd of elephants caused damage of around 6.8 million yuan ($ 1.1 million), according to Xinhua.
Local governments in Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, have tried roadblocks and tons of food in recent weeks to change the elephants’ course while evacuating residential areas.