China elephant herd take adorable nap after 500 kilometre trek

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After a 500-kilometer walk, a group of cute Chinese elephants take a nap.

At least a dozen flying drones keep an eye on them 24 hours a day. Police follow them everywhere, and millions of people watch them online while they eat or sleep.

China has had a new internet sensation for more than a week: a group of 15 big, lost elephants that are causing chaos in the southwest of the country.

Livestreams of the elephants have been watched by millions of people. Since they ran away from a nature reserve in South China last year, the elephants have travelled more than 500 kilometres across the country.

Drones captured footage of the elephants taking a nap after their 500km journey, with one calf adorably scrambling to get out from under one of the snoozing adults. (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima)


Netizens have been glued to their screens as the elephants trampled fields, damaging them for more than a million dollars, and walked through towns, making people stay inside.

It’s no surprise that new stars have come up. The three calves in the herd are especially cute, and one was born during the epic trip, according to the Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times.

A video released this week showed a calf getting stuck under an adult elephant while the animals were taking a group nap near Kunming, which is in the southwestern region of Yunnan. More than eight million people watched the video.

Baby elephants tripped and fell as they followed the group across a field in another video. In a different video, a calf fell headfirst into a pool while trying to drink water.

Of the 15 elephants, one male has broken free from the herd and is currently about 4 km to the northeast of the group, according to the on-site command tracking the elephants. (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima)

One person on the social networking site Weibo was afraid when pictures of the herd taking a nap went viral: “Will they get cold while they sleep?” “I want to put a quilt over them.”

People who are famous have even tried to ride off of elephants’ fame.

Global Times says that internet stars rushed to get their hands on the corn and pineapple that were left out to attract elephants away from towns.

The stars were shown picking up and eating leftover pineapple in videos that were shared online to get people to watch, the news source said.

The elephants’ reason for going north is still not clear.

Some people have said that the trip might have been caused by the loss of jungles in their home country. Some people say they might just be lost, which worries online elephant fans as well.

On Weibo, someone else wrote, “It’s really sad that we don’t know when they will get there.”


Environment damage
A more serious side to the elephant show can be found. Biologists see this as a warning about what can happen when elephant environments are damaged.

People in China protect Asian elephants as a species, and Xinhua says that about 300 of them live in Yunnan.

A paper in Nature says that over the last few decades, farming has killed off elephants’ natural habitats, leaving groups scattered and alone on more and more small pieces of land.

Many elephants have to find food in farmland instead, which has led to more conflicts between people and elephants in the last 10 years. The government is well aware of this problem.

A herd of wild Asian elephants have made a temporary stop along their migration in the outskirts of the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima)

The government has been trying to keep the elephants away from places with people so that they don’t fight. End of May, the government set up a command station that was open 24 hours a day to keep an eye on the elephants.

Zhang Li, a wildlife biologist and professor at Beijing Normal University, told Global Times that the only way to stop elephants from leaving again is to repair their habitats and protect natural resources.

Professor Zhang said, “The traditional buffer zones between humans and elephants are slowly disappearing, and elephants are much more likely to come into contact with humans naturally.”

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