Science & Environment

Elephants in dramatic muddy escape

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Media captionThe last elephant had to be pulled out with a rope

It is a great escape. One by one, 11 Asian elephants manage to drag themselves clear of a muddy hole.

The drama took place in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia.

The elephants had gone to drink and bathe in water collected in an old bomb crater - but then got stuck.

Local villagers used vegetation and ropes to help the animals out. Once clear, the elephants ran off into the bush.

Everyone pulled together to avoid a tragedy, said Tan Setha, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) technical advisor to the protected area.

“This herd consisted of three adult females and eight juveniles of various ages, including a male that had almost reached maturity.

"These elephants represent an important part of the breeding population in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, and their loss would have been a major blow to conservation."

Image copyright WCS
Image caption The hole is an old bomb crater enlarged to store water

The muddy hole was originally made by a bomb during the Vietnam war, but was later widened by farmers to store water.

When the farmers realised the elephants were trapped in the depression last Friday, they notified the Department of Environment, who in turn notified WCS who were able to mobilise a rescue effort.

“This is a great example of everyone working together in Cambodia to save wildlife,” said Dr Ross Sinclair, WCS country director.

“Too often the stories around conservation are about conflict and failure, but this is one about cooperation and success. That the last elephant to be rescued needed everyone to pull together on a rope to drag it to safety is symbolic of how we have to work together for conservation.”

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