China's herd of wandering elephants appear to be heading home after 300 mile trek

ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports on the 600 mile round trip of the herd of wandering elephants in China

The long journey of a herd of elephants who fascinated the world by making a year-long trek out of their habitat and into urban China appears to be coming to an end.

Local authorities have deployed trucks, workers and drones to monitor the elephants, while roads have been evacuated for them to pass safely and food deployed at certain points to steer them away from populated areas.

The 14 Asian elephants of various sizes and ages were guided across the Yuanjiang river in Yunnan on Sunday night and a path is being opened for them to return to the nature reserve where they lived in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.

The elephants caused significant damage to several buildings Credit: AP

The elephants left the reserve more than a year ago for unknown reasons and roamed more than 300 miles north.

After reaching the outskirts of Kunming, a centre for business and tourism, they turned south again, but still are far from the reserve.

Despite their entrance into villages and forays into shops and even a retirement home no animals or humans have been injured, but there have been reports the elephants have caused more than a million dollars worth of damage.

By June the elephant's journey had become an international sensation, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

One male that separated from the herd was subsequently tranquilised and returned to the reserve.

As of Sunday night, the herd was still in Yuanjiang County, approximately 125 miles from the reserve.

However, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said the animals were in a "suitable habitat" after crossing the river.

Officials used food to guide the elephants away from populated areas Credit: AP

A notice issued by the provincial government said the herd’s progress was significant and it would continue to work on getting the elephants back in their natural habitat soon.

During the course of their journey, the herd was seen trotting down urban streets at night, visiting a car dealership and even showing up at a retirement home, where they poked their trunks into some of the rooms, prompting one elderly man to hide under his bed.

Their gigantic journey has left many scientists confused as to why they had left their home, but some researchers have pointed to their shrinking habitat and growing numbers increasing the likelihood of them coming in contact with humans.

Asian elephants are among the most highly protected animals in China and their population has grown to around 300.