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People Have Fallen In Love With This Herd Of Wild Elephants Looking For A New Habitat In China

More than 150,000 people were evacuated from homes in the elephants' path, but the animals have become local darlings as fans track their progress.

Posted on August 12, 2021, at 9:01 a.m. ET

In April, a herd of 15 elephants in China meandered more than 800 miles from the city of Pu'er to the city of Kunming in June, gaining legions of fans along the way.

The herd, which officials said was finally reaching a protected habitat in southwest China's Yunnan province, had been migrating in search of food and a home, though no one knew exactly where they were going. According to Reuters, state protection efforts have enabled the wild elephant population of the Chinese state of Xishuangbanna to double since 1978. A ban on hunting activities also made elephants more willing to enter human communities.

More than 150,000 people were evacuated from homes in the elephants' path, but the animals have become local darlings as fans track their progress. For World Elephant Day this Aug. 12, we look at some of the highlights of their journey.

An elephant stands with its trunk pointed up in a field of vegetation
VCG via Getty Images

A wild Asian elephant strolls through a Chinese village, Aug. 7, 2021.

Three elephants walk through brush in a line
Vcg / VCG via Getty Images

Three wild Asian elephants in China's Yunnan province

A line of seven wild elephants walk over a hilltop lined with agriculture
VCG via Getty Images
Two farmers walking through a field of agriculture are dwarfed by three elephants walking in the background
VCG via Getty Images
A woman standing under an umbrella presses a fruit into an elephant's trunk
Aly Song / Reuters

A tourist feeds fruit to a tamed elephant in the Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley in Yunnan province, July 6, 2021.

An aerial view of an elephant surrounded by vegetation next to a body of water
Aly Song / Reuters

A wild female elephant grazes in the Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley, July 6.

VCG via Getty Images

A wild Asian elephant strolls through a village in Yunnan province.

VCG via Getty Images

The herd moves through the village.

At least four adult elephants, including one baby elephant, rest in a meadow
China Daily / Reuters

The Asian elephants rest in the city of Kunming's Jinning district on June 7.

An aerial view of at least 13 elephants grazing in a field
VCG via Getty Images
China Daily / Reuters

The elephants forage and play in Yimen County in the Yunnan province, June 16.

VCG via Getty Images

The herd moves through a village.

An overhead view of elephants standing around a fork in a dirt road
Vcg / VCG via Getty Images
At least seven elephants walk around an agricultural field
VCG via Getty Images
An aerial view shows the herd crossing a bridge over a river
China Daily / Reuters

The elephants cross the Yuanjiang river, heading back to their traditional habitat.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.