A lone elephant separated from its herd that was marching through southern China has been captured and returned to a nature reserve, officials said, in the latest twist to a tumultuous journey that has caused chaos but attracted Chinese social media.
He was part of a herd of Asian elephants that have spent months roaming the province, moving more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the reserve in one of the animal’s longest-ever migrations. This is in China.
Since departing last spring, they have stolen stores and trampled over $1 million worth of crops, and thousands of residents have had to evacuate their roads.
The solo 10-year-old strayed from the group a month ago.
On Wednesday, the animal, weighing more than 1.8 tons, was recuperated and taken to Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, the Yunnan provincial wildlife department said.
It was unclear how he was transported about 530 kilometers back to the reserve.
After being released in the reserve, state broadcaster CCTV showed it feeding among the lush foliage before taking a dip in a river.
Male elephants often leave their mother’s herd to live alone or in small groups with other males when they reach sexual maturity.
Scientists are still puzzled by what prompted the elephants to leave their home at Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, on the border with Laos.
But their trip with the mammoth helped highlight the challenges of habitat loss and conservation in one of the few places in the world where wild elephant populations are on the rise.
China’s wild elephant population has doubled to more than 300 in the past three decades – but their habitat has shrunk by almost two-thirds over the same period.