On Sunday, China Central Television reported that the elephant crossed from the Chahe border in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, into Luang Namtha, Laos, at around 4.30 a.m.
According to Chahe border official Li Zhifu, the elephant was probably looking for 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 [Chinese] forest safe and sound."
The Asian elephant is an endangered species due to habitat degradation and poaching. Most of China's 300 Asian elephants live in forests in Yunnan province in southwestern China. Although elephants are believed to be symbols of wealth and good luck in China, wild elephants can be a real threat to locals.
On Friday, Thepaper.cn reported that wild elephants killed 53 people and injured 299 others in Yunnan between 1991 and 2016. In addition, wild elephants have caused $51.7 million dollars worth of damages in the resource-rich province.
Two years ago, an old man shot an elephant after a herd of seven elephants stomped over his maize crop. The man was jailed for an unspecified amount of time and the elephant was also found to be pregnant.
To safeguard residents and their property, authorities in Xishuangbanna, an autonomous prefecture in Yunnan, built a 0.8 meter fence around the village following multiple conflicts between elephants and humans.
According to protection specialist Wang Qiaoyan, wild elephants do not typically attack humans, although they tend to become more aggressive when attempts are made to scare them off.
Wang also said that ripeners used on crops to artificially ripen fruit can agitate elephants. Calcium carbide is a common ripening agent. When it makes contact with moisture, acetylene gas is produced, which has a similar effect to ethylene, a natural ripening agent. Because calcium carbide contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus which are dangerous for consumption, the use of calcium carbide is illegal in many countries.
"Humans use lots of ripeners on crops, which can make elephants short-tempered," Wang explained.