Surveillance images show the herd includes six adult female elephants, three adult males, three sub-adults and three cubs.

Hu Chao / Xinhua via Getty Images

All those who wander are not lost, JRR Tolkien once written. A herd of elephants in China might agree with this sentiment. Fifteen wild Asian elephants have been slowly crossing China for over a year, ravishing social media, eating and trampling crops and causing more than a million dollars in damage.

It is not uncommon for elephants to roam outside their habitats, but this wandering herd stands out. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, senior researcher at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, who specializes in elephants, told the New York Times he had “no idea” why these elephants would not settle in the same place.

The elephants left last March, leaving a nature reserve in Xishuangbanna, and have traveled over 300 miles (500 kilometers) so far. There were 16 in the group at the time, but some have turned around and others have given birth, so the group is now at 15, reports The Times.

Chinese social media users seem amused by the herd. When residents of a town on the Elephant Trail prepared corn stalks for the animals to munch on, the hashtag “Wild Elephant Northbound Buffet site” became a trend on the Weibo social media platform.

But not everyone is laughing. The elephants caused 412 separate incidents of damage costing an estimated $ 1.1 million (£ 779,894, AU $ 1.4 million) in losses, the state-run Xinhua news agency, as cited by CNN, reported. Although no casualties have been reported, the animals are being watched closely as they continue to move.

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