EFEBeijing

Wild elephants that had been roaming the southern Chinese province of Yunnan for more than three months returned to a "more appropriate" habitat, Chinese experts told state media.

Xinhua news agency said the animals began a migration in May from their usual habitat in Xishuangbanna, a region known for its tropical forest and monsoon climate, to the north of the province, without the clear reasons that led them to make this decision.

The pachyderms managed Sunday to cross the Yuanjiang River to the south, the main obstacle they had to continue their return to a more favorable habitat.

The arrival of the rainy season in the area in July added difficulty to its crossing, since the river flow has increased considerably.

According to Xinhua, authorities blocked the river bank with dozens of trucks to prevent the elephants from crossing, forcing them to continue their journey to a bridge where they could cross it without complications.

Chen Mingyong, an elephant researcher at Yunnan University, said the Yuanjiang River "is the dividing line" that marks "the suitability of the environment for the life of elephants," the agency reported Tuesday.

In the north, the original direction the animals took, "it is colder and there is less food," Chen said, while the Yuanjiang River basin, where they are found, "has plenty of food, but not enough space to hide."

According to Chen, elephant habitats can be divided into four categories: "highly appropriate, appropriate, normal and inappropriate," and the animals are now in a suitable one.

Provincial authorities have evacuated 150,000 inhabitants to avoid conflicts with the elephants and supplied 180 tons of food to the animals during their migration.

The images of elephants roaming the mountains of Yunnan have attracted great attention in both Chinese and international media and social networks these months.

State media reports that the population of wild Asian elephants – under Level A state protection, the highest in China – living in Yunnan is 300, 107 more than in 1980, although it is not clear if migration is related to human activities.

Researcher Pan Wenjing, deputy director of the Greenpeace East Asia Forestry and Ocean Unit, told EFE in June that "it is very difficult to know the exact reason" for a migration of this magnitude, although it had an impact on the fact that "the loss of their habitat poses a great challenge" for the protection of Asian elephants in China.

"It is true that the population of these elephants has increased in recent years, but this is mainly due to the disappearance of poaching. However, the area of ??natural forests has decreased as a result of the expansion of human activity" , said Pan, who called for "protecting and restoring habitats with larger areas to reduce the conflict between animals and man." EFE

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