Video of elephants wandering in China is hitting a record high in views

For more than a week now, China has been gripped by a new “Internet hysteria”: videos of the traveling elephants, large and wreaking havoc in the southwest of the country, 15 wandering elephants. Tens of millions of people have already watched online broadcasts from at least 14 drones of the elephants’ journeys, which have traveled more than 500 kilometers across the country since escaping from a reserve in southern China in late May.

On the Web, users watched as the elephants trampled crops, causing more than a million dollars worth of damage, roamed towns and cities, forcing locals to stay inside buildings. The Internet dubbed them “breakout stars.” According to China’s state-run Global Times, viewers are particularly fascinated by the three cubs from this unusual herd, including one who was born during the epic journey. More than eight million people have watched a short video shot this week of a baby elephant trapped under an adult elephant during an animal “rest stop” near the city of Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province. Another video showed elephants stumbling clumsily as they tried to catch up with a herd that was running through a field of corn, and a separate video showed a baby elephant who fell into a lake trying to drink water. “Internet stars” sampled the corn and pineapple they had been left on the roads to wean the elephants away from the cities. A video posted online shows elephants eating pineapples with an obvious appetite.

It remains unclear to experts why the elephants suddenly made the journey to northern China. Some experts believe it may have been caused by the shrinking rainforest in their reserve. Biologists see this situation as a warning of what happens when elephant habitat deteriorates.