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Epic elephant rescue, Luangwa Valley, Zambia

How’s this for a photo account by Abraham Banda on 31 October?logo_120h1[1]

As we approach the end of the dry season an elephant calf gets trapped in the last remains of a muddy lagoon. His mother comes to the rescue but gets stuck herself.

A tragic ending is averted as conservationists intervene and the rescue unfolds below…

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 South Luangwa Conservation Society 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 Gid’s 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…
…the baby makes a dash for it as the rest of the herd scream for her to come to them…

Now back to mum who’s dehydrated and exhausted – the team’s 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 encouragement 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 relieved guests!

“Most conservationists believe that man shouldn’t meddle with the natural order. That we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. It’s generally agreed that unless a wildlife problem has been created by man in which case human intervention is justified (for instance in the case of snaring or game being trapped in a fence) then nature should be left to her own devices.

There are exceptions. The dreadful plight of a baby elephant trapped in the Kapani Lagoon mud together with her mother, who’d also got stuck trying to save her caused frenzy. The locals couldn’t stand by and watch the pair struggle and slowly die. South Luangwa Conservation Society together with the NCS neighbours – ZAWA – the wildlife authority – agreed that the teams join forces to try and save the mum and baby.”

Comments from Gid: “This is all in a day’s work for Rachel McRobb and her team at The South Luangwa Conservation Society. Their dedication and commitment to wildlife is inspiring.

Together with the local wildlife authority – the South Luangwa Area Management Unit of the Zambia Wildlife Authority, they’re extremely effective at anti-poaching activities including anti-snaring and patrolling in vulnerable areas of the National Park. Rachel and her team are also skilled at darting snared animals, removing the snares and treating the horrific wounds they cause.

Their awareness raising activities and work with other local conservation groups are incredibly effective. Of course – this all takes money so please consider becoming a regular supporter.

MD Dave Wilson and NCS Director Adrian Carr are both active trustees in SLCS.

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.

Thanks to SLCS, ZAWA and the NCS staff who bravely fought to make this a happy ending!”

On another note follow this lion cub rescue in Kenya’s Masai Mara….



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