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.
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.
South Luangwa Conservation Society ( Zambia ) together with our neighbours – ZAWA – the wildlife authority – agreed with us and we all joined forces to try and save the mum and baby. These great photos document the unfolding drama……
The family herd desperately trying to help the screaming Mum and baby escape but they were completely stuck in the deep, rapidly drying mud with no chance of getting out.
The brave and skilled SLCS team manages to slip a rope under the baby, narrowly avoiding mums thrashing trunk - and starts to haul her out …….
Nearly there – the whole team is hauling as hard as they can….. But the baby is terribly frightened and won’t leave mum’s side.
Again – she’s out and we think we’re almost there…… But despite my frantic waving and shouting – she won’t leave her mum.
One more try – the team pull her further away from mum this time….. They unwrap the ropes and help her to her feet
This time – thanks to a young herd cousin calling her to safety….. she makes a dash for it as the rest of the herd scream for her to come to them.
Now back to mum who is dehydrated and exhausted – we’ve been pouring water over her to try to protect her from the scorching midday sun. SLCS staff carefully slip a rope under her….
and the tractor starts to pull and pull – inching her out of what would have been a muddy grave - she seems to sense that there’s a chance of escape and begins to struggle for her life…
With us all shouting encouragment and just willing her to keep going “come on Mama, come on Mama”……. to the delight of us all – she makes it! Weak and wobbly she drags herself out.
and runs to find her baby and the rest of her waiting herd! The happiest possible ending!
The SLCS team all share a celebratory drink on the Kapani deck with our relieved guests!
It was extremely heartening for us all to see how many local people joined in the efforts to free these two elephants – the cheers of joy, first when the baby ran to his cousin and then when Mum was finally released from the jaws of the sticky, cloying mud were wonderful! Everyone seemed to identify with the mum’s plight - we all saw the incredible emotional bond between the worried herd members and mum and baby.
Thank you SLCS and ZAWA and also all the NCS staff who bravely fought to make this a happy ending!