An endangered elephant herd is taking a mysterious trek in China. Are humans to blame?

William Brangham:

It’s been an epic and highly unusual journey so far, more than 300 miles over the last year, across deserts, through forests, crossing busy city streets, navigating ditches.

This herd of 15 Asian elephants is captivating China. Every step of their trek documented on state-run media, and seemingly everywhere on Chinese social media. The world can’t seem to get enough of this trip, a trip to — well, nobody quite knows where.

They stop for naps, though the adults seem more tuckered out than their offspring. They eat corn in the fields, even try to break into power plants.

But why are they on this journey? I asked conservation biologist Peter Leimgruber that very question at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

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