Rescuers Trying To Help Baby Elephant That Fell In A Well Have To Get Past His Panicked Mom First

When it comes to dealing with animals, humans mostly know what’s best. Experts in the field understand their behavior for the most part, and they know when to get involved and when to stay out of things.

For instance, in Southern Kenya, an elephant expert received a call about a calf stuck in a life-or-death predicament. When she arrived to save the baby elephant, she had to do something likely to upset the suffering beast—no matter how hard it might be for her to do…

As a kid, Dr. Vicki Fishlock fell in love with African elephants. It was her life’s dream and in 2011 she pursued a study of elephants at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.

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Dr. Fishlock joined the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP), an organization stationed in the national park created to study its thousands of free-ranging elephants. There, she had a goal.

Safina Center

Study the impact of Kenya’s fierce drought on the local elephants. But in October of 2012, Dr. Fishlock’s research thrust her into the heart of a dangerous situation.

It was early in the morning when she received word a baby elephant had fallen into a well somewhere out in the park. Worse, herders would soon arrive at the well to water their cattle—which complicated matters.

Africa Research Online

If the herders reached the well first, they’d likely scare away the baby elephant’s mother. If herders chased the mother off, the baby would be as good as dead.

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

So Dr. Fishlock and two team members hopped into a jeep and sped to the well, hoping as they drove the mother hadn’t been chased away. They arrived to a scene more complicated than they’d anticipated.

To their relief, the mother elephant, Zombe, lingered around the well, panicked as her baby fought for purchase on the slopes of the muddy well. But she was scared—and aggressive.

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

Elephants are the strongest land mammals on the planet, capable of lifting up to 600 pounds with just their trunks. And this strong, protective mamma? Well, she wasn’t about to let anyone near her struggling baby.

Zombe’s presence made the rescue impossible: stepping out of the jeep and near that baby would put her and her crew’s lives in danger. For the calf’s sake, it would be Dr. Fishlock, terrible as it sounded, that scared the mother off.

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The AERP rescue team drove the jeep at the mother, taunting her with a collision. Still, Zombe stayed by her baby’s side, despite fearing the jeep…so Dr. Fishlock screamed at her like a banshee.

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

Chased by sharp, high-pitched calls and a loud jeep engine, Zombe turned and fled. Now the AERP team had to rescue the baby before the mother ran too far away. But could they?

Their rudimentary rescue plan followed three steps: Step one, tie a rope to the jeep’s bumper; step two, loop the rope around the baby’s butt; step three, reverse the jeep and pull the baby out. Sounds easy enough, no?

But, as Dr. Fishlock put it, “We were so delighted [Zombe’s calf] is so big and fat and healthy…until we had to pull her out of a hole.” The two men fighting rescue her struggled against her weight and strength.

Because the baby was trying to get away and back to her mother the rescuers couldn’t loop the rope around her backside. The scared-and-cranky elephant wasn’t interested in being turned, either.

AmbroseliTrust / YouTube

Still, with enough coaxing, the baby elephant turned, letting the two rescue workers loop the rope around her. As they worked to secure rope she cried and roared. Baby was not happy.

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Finally the men secured the rope around the baby elephant and gave Dr. Fishlock a signal. She mashed the accelerator, sending the jeep flying backward and pulling on the stuck calf.

In seconds, the calf popped out of the well (knocking over one of the rescue workers in the process)! The poor girl didn’t stick around to celebrate, however—she had another mission in mind…

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

The second the calf had her bearings, she sprinted away from Dr. Fishlock and her rescuers, towards her scared-away mother. Dr. Fishlock followed, hoping to guide the calf in the right direction…

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

The calf ran and ran across the dry, drought-stricken plains. After a long run, with dust swirling around them, the two reunited in a magical, heavenly moment! But just across the Indian Ocean, another elephant was facing a similar predicament.

AmboseliTrust / YouTube

In 2015, a fairly large herd of about 60 elephants were spotted walking through a dusty portion of northeastern India. They’d been traveling for miles before something truly terrible happened.

The elephants were passing through a stretch of the Chatra district, about 100 miles from the Jharkhand state capital of Ranchi. The villagers there were no strangers to migrating elephants. But one stood out to them…

This elephant exhibited mysterious and erratic behavior. As hours passed, villagers circled around her in a muddy field. What was she doing? And why had she separated from the rest of her herd?

Newslions Media / YouTube

The elephant caused quite the stir; she was frantic, and local villagers at first couldn’t quite figure out why. They watched as the elephant, now separate from her herd, pushed her trunk into the dirt.

They soon realized that she was digging. Using her back legs to brace herself, the elephant buried her trunk in a decent-sized ditch. She worked furiously, pulling whatever bits of mud she could from the hole.

Newslions Media

Occasionally, she took steps back, clearly exhausted. She did this over and over, digging for 11 hours straight! From sundown to sunrise, she dug so intently that most of her herd left her behind. What was going on?

Newslions Media / YouTube

The villagers had to proceed with caution—the elephant could be dangerous, and they still had no idea what was wrong. As they approached, however, they immediately understood: her calf had fallen into the muddy ditch and he was stuck!

Daily Mail

Unfortunately, as the mother elephant dug, she made the situation worse. Because of her size and power, she was actually pushingmud into the hole, covering—and potentially smothering—her baby.

Newslion Media / YouTube

The villagers knew what trouble awaited if they just left the animals alone—the baby elephant would either suffocate from the mud or starve to death. But concerned as they were, what could they really do?

After all, rescuing the baby elephant wasn’t as simple as grabbing him by his legs or trunk and pulling him out of the hole. Most likely, the mother wasn’t going to let them anywhere near her baby, either. The villagers needed to be creative—and careful.

One of the villagers, Jitendra Tiwari, caught the whole ordeal on camera, and he recounted the villagers’ rescue efforts later.First, the villagers drove a few banana trucks up to the ditch and frightened away the mother…

With the mother elephant at a safe distance away, Jitendra said, “We used [that] time to remove the heap of sand deposited near the well that was making it difficult for her to rescue the baby.” But would it work?

Daily Mail

The villagers then drove the banana truck away from the hole so the mother elephant could return for her calf. Now, she had level ground to work from and she wouldn’t kick any more mud into the well… or so they hoped.

Daily Mail

After her 11-hour struggle, the mother elephant was finally able to wrap her trunk around her mud-slicked baby. With a few good heaves, she pulled her young calf to safety. It looked like the villagers and the mother’s efforts paid off!

Daily Mail

Now that her calf was back on solid ground, the mother elephant could rest easy. Villagers even reported something incredibly sweet: the two pachyderms walked away with their trunks entwined! That was like an elephant’s way of giving a kiss.

Daily Mail

With the whole ordeal now behind them, the mother and her calf walked away from the village side by side and ready to catch up with the rest of their herd. Surely, these two would never forget the villagers who pitched in to help!

Daily Mail

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