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Herd of elephants cause $1m worth of damage as they trek more than 300 miles across China

A herd of elephants have trekked 311 miles (500km) through China causing a reported $1m (£709,000) of damage.

It is unknown why the 15 grey beasts made the journey – which started at a protected nature reserve – although it is thought a lack of food in an area with elephant populations now increasing may have played a factor.

The animals were most recently seen on the outskirts of Kunming, a city of around seven million people and the capital of Yunnan province – which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

According to China‘s state news agency Xinhua, residents have been told not to leave corn or other food outside their homes overnight to attract the elephants.

Contact with the animals has been prohibited, and it was also “forbidden to surround and gawk at the elephants” or disturb them with firecrackers.

Initially there were 16 elephants, but two returned to their home region and one was born on the trip.

Authorities have been monitoring the herd with drones, and there are currently thought to be six adult females, three adult males, three juveniles and three calves.

It is not clear why the beasts embarked on the mammoth walk – which started in the southwest of Yunnan province.

Since they departed the area, the herd have trampled through rural areas and down highways, causing an estimated $1m in damage – although no injuries have been recorded.

One city which the animals neared, Yuxi, sent hundreds of trucks to block the roads to discourage a visit from the elephants, according to local media reports.

And the Jimu News website reported that the herd stumbled across a retirement home – at which point they started sticking their trunks into rooms. One elderly man had to hide under a bed, the site said.

The authorities are trying to lure the animals away from people with food, as they try to protect both the creatures and humans.

It is not clear what, if any, plans there were to return the elephants to their home.

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