150,000 people in China evacuated to clear the way for escaped elephants to the reserve

Officials leading the effort to bring 14 elephants home after the animals’ 300-mile escape have hired more than 25,000 police and staff to help the domestic elephant herd.

More than 150,000 people were evacuated in southwestern China’s Yunnan province to clear the way for a herd of 14 Asian elephants to escape.

Wan Yong, who oversees an organization tasked with returning wildlife to the Xishuangbanna Dai provincial nature reserve, told reporters on Monday that in addition to the evacuation, 25,000 police and staff members had recruited to make sure the elephants stay on track, according to local news agency Xinhua.

Police and staff are using vehicles, drones, and 180 tons of food to guide the migrating elephants.

According to the AP news agency, the herd of elephants crossed the Yuanjiang River on Sunday night, nearly 125 miles from the sanctuary.

More than a year ago, wild animals escaped from their nature reserve. Officials later found the elephants more than 300 miles away from the facility and spent months getting them back to the sanctuary. A spokesman for the Yunnan government told the AP that “significant” progress had been made, and officials believed the elephants would complete the journey soon.

In June, the magazine reported that a herd of 14 elephants was involved in 412 separate damage incidents caused by the elephants’ 300-mile journey. According to reports, the herd caused about 6.8 million yuan ($1.1 million) damage to farmlands.

Cen Mingyong, an expert on Asian elephants, told Xinhua that the incident was the furthest wild elephant migration ever recorded in China. He said it was likely that the leader was “inexperienced and led the herd astray,” AP reported.