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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A rescue they will never forget: Baby elephant and its mother pulled from mud lagoon by conservation workers

By Richard Hartley-parkinson

The family herd desperately tries to help the stricken mother and calf as they lie in the lagoon

This is the dramatic moment that an elephant and its baby were rescued after they got stuck in a mud lagoon.

Conservation workers, who normally have a policy of leaving nature to fend for itself as much as possible, unless the problem was created by humans.

On this occasion, however, they could not sit by and let the mother and calf die in such a horrible way.

The mud dries quickly making their mistake harder and the window of time for rescue much shorter

Workers managed to slip a rope under the baby before the hard work of pulling him free begins

The team of workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society pulls the calf first, avoiding the mother's thrashing trunk

Before the rescue by workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society on the flats of the Kapani Lagoon, Zambia, the mother and calf's herd tries to rescue the pair.

When they are unable to do anything, the team - along with members of the Zambian Wildlife Authority - moves in while the herd waits on the other side of some trees.

With mud in the lagoon drying quickly, the rescue becomes a race against time.
Eventually a rope is slipped under the calf's trunk before the pulling can begin.

A couple of attempts are made to release the youngster but it wants to stay with its mother and goes back, getting stuck once again.

At one point, the calf appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets under way

The calf appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets under way

Some would argue that rescuing the mother and baby meddles with the natural order

Although the calf appears to be almost free of the drying mud pool, she looks back to her mother

Shouting and waving frantically, the team tries to deter the youngster from returning to its mother

A final attempt is made to pull the calf further away from its mother who continues to thrash around in the mud

Eventually, they pull the calf out further away from what could have been its muddy grave. It hears the cry of a cousin elephant and runs towards it.

Rachel McRobb from the team said: 'Most conservationists believe that man should not meddle with the natural order and that we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. We agree on the whole, unless a wildlife problem has been created by man (for instance in the case of snaring or being trapped in a fence, in which case it's justifiable to intervene) then nature should be left to her own devices. She has a plan.

'However - every rule has an exception and the dreadful plight of a baby elephant trapped in the mud of the Kapani Lagoon and her mother, who had also got stuck trying to save her yesterday had us all in a frenzy of activity. We simply could not stand by and watch them struggle and slowly die.'

Once the calf is freed, the team works to help the mother who has become tired after all the thrashing around.

She is tied to a tractor and, inch by inch, she makes her way to freedom. Eventually she is pulled from the mud and runs towards her calf and the waiting family.

Finally there is some joy as the ropes are removed from the calf elephant after it is pulled clear

A cousin from her herd calls to her and she makes a dash for freedom

The focus then turns to the mother elephant who is becoming tired after struggling for so long

Manpower would not be enough to pull the adult elephant from what would have been a muddy grave

After an inch by inch struggle, she eventually senses freedom and starts to scramble through the mud once more

She cries out for her baby and the herd who are waiting for her just beyond the trees

A little weak and wobbly, she makes her escape to the delight of everyone who helped

After the long struggle, the mother makes a dash towards her calf and waiting family



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