14 Asian elephants, an endangered species, left the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan about 17 months ago for unknown reasons and made an 807-mile journey to the north of the country through fields, towns and cities, eating millions of dollars worth of crops and damaging buildings. It seems now they headed home. The herd including three calves had crossed the Yuanjiang River and was continuing to head south. By Sunday night the herd was about 200km (125 miles) from the reserve. More than 150,000 people have been evacuated from the path of a herd of migrating elephants to avoid conflicts. More than 25,000 police officers using vehicles and drones have monitored the herd until now and the surveillance will continue. More than $771,000 in insurance money was paid out due to property damage, according authorities. Officials have also evacuated roads for the elephants so they could pass safely and used food to steer the animals away from populated, urban areas.
The National Forestry and Grassland Administration told media the animals were in a “suitable habitat” after crossing the Yuanjiang river. No animals and humans appear to have been injured. China only has about 300 wild elephants left. Earth’s largest living land animals consume massive quantities of vegetation. They may spend up to 18 hours a day feeding and eat as much as 600 pounds of food. Elephants are important for humans for multiple motivations. Here is just one of them: researchers at the universities of Utah and Chicago have found that elephants have evolved a DNA mechanism that gets rid of cells that have cancer-causing mutations. Scientists are studying elephant DNA to create drugs to treat cancer or possibly prevent it.