Wandering Chinese elephant herd become international sensation

The elephants who have trekked 350 miles from home, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

A giant operation befitting a giant animal is underway in China as hundreds of police officers monitor and attempt to contain a wandering herd of wild elephants who have strayed hundreds of miles from their normal territory.

Over the past year, the 15 member herd has trekked nearly 350 miles from their home on a reserve in the mountains of Yunnan Province and are currently gathered near the city of Yuxi.

Police are trying to divert them away from towns by parking lorries to block roads and have gone as far as offering them food hoping to divert them from feasting on entire farms.

So far they've been seen trotting down urban streets at night, visited a car dealership and even showed up at a retirement home, where they poked their trunks into some of the rooms, prompting one elderly man to hide under his bed.

The elephants have been fed in the hope of keeping them away from farms. Credit: AP

Homes have been evacuated and ditches have been dug to keep them safe but despite the chaos and inconvenience the elephants are causing they have become an online sensation around the world.Their gigantic journey has left many scientists confused as to where their final destination may be as the animals have long left their natural habitat.

They are also undecided over whether to intervene and try and guide them to somewhere safe or let them carry on finding their own way.

Elephants are given the top level of protection in China, allowing their numbers to steadily increase even as their natural habitat shrinks, and requiring farmers and others to exercise maximum restraint when encountering them.