Fifteen elephants are making a mysterious, year-plus march through China

wandering elephants in china

Monitoring images show the herd includes six female adult elephants, three male adults, three sub-adults and three cubs.


Hu Chao/Xinhua via Getty Images

Not all who wander are lost, J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote. A herd of elephants in China might agree with that sentiment. Fifteen wild Asian elephants have been slowly making their way across China for over a year, delighting social media, eating and trampling crops, and causing more than a million dollars worth of damage.

It’s not unusual for elephants to ramble outside their habitats, but this wandering herd stands out. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, a principal investigator at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, who specializes in elephants, told The New York Times he has “no idea” why these elephants won’t settle in one spot.

The elephants started off last March, leaving a nature reserve in Xishuangbanna, and have traveled more than 300 miles (500 kilometers) so far. There were 16 in the group then, but some have turned around, and others have given birth, making the group now down to 15, the Times reports.

Chinese social media users seem entertained by the herd. When residents in a town on the elephants’ path prepared corn stalks for the animals to munch, the hashtag “northbound wild elephants’ buffet site” trending on social-media platform Weibo. 

But not everyone is laughing. The elephants have caused 412 separate incidents of damage costing about $1.1 million (£779,894, AU$1.4 million)  in losses, state news agency Xinhua reported, as cited by CNN. Although no casualties have been reported, the animals are being closely monitored as they keep on trunking.

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