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The elephant clear the Chahe checkpoint barrier. Photo:

No passport, no worries: elephant makes predawn border run from China to Laos – and back again

Animal probably left the forest in search of food, border guard says


A wild elephant was caught on surveillance footage making a predawn border run through a checkpoint in southwestern China into Laos on Saturday, returning via the same crossing about two hours later.

Footage showed the elephant clearing a barrier at the Chahe border in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, and ambling into Luang Namtha in Laos at about 4.30am, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday.

Border officers sent two teams to warn nearby residents of the danger, only for the animal to return without incident.

Chahe border officer Li Zhifu said the elephant was probably in search of food.

“It’s winter now and there’s not a lot of food in the forests. We often see wild elephants hunting for food in nearby villages,” Li said.

“The elephant has returned to the forest safe and sound.”

China has about 300 Asian elephants, most of them living in Yunnan’s forests.

They are a protected species and although once regarded by Chinese as a symbol of wealth and good luck, the animals have become a danger to residents.

Between 1991 and 2016, wild elephants killed 53 people, injured 299 and caused 327 million yuan (US$51.7 million) in damage in Yunnan, reported on Friday.

To help protect people and their property, Xishuangbanna authorities have built a 1.35km elephant-proof fence around a village.

Authorities have erected an elephant-proof barrier around one village. Photo:

The action comes after numerous cases of conflict between humans and elephants.

An elderly man shot dead one elephant after a herd of seven trampled his maize crop in search of food two years ago.

The elephant was later found to be pregnant with a 99kg fetus and the man was jailed, but the report did not say for how long.

Elephant protection specialist Wang Qiaoyan said wild elephants generally did not attack people but attempts to frighten them away could make them more aggressive.

Wang said bingeing on crops could also affect an elephant’s temper.

“Humans use lots of ripeners on crops, which can make elephants short-tempered,” he said.