India

India wild elephant saved in dramatic rescue

Elephant drowning Image copyright Raju Nautiyal/Rajaji Tiger Reserve
Image caption The elephant was struggling to swim in the river due to strong currents

Officials in the Indian state of Uttarakhand have saved a wild elephant from drowning in the Ganges river.

Forest guards at Rajaji Tiger Reserve near Rishikesh found the elephant stuck at one of the barrages on the river early on Thursday.

They diverted water to reduce the river level, allowing the male elephant to swim to safety.

The Himalayan reserve has more than 350 elephants and other wild animals, and is also home to a hydro power plant.

Forest officials said the elephant was most probably involved in a territorial fight and ran towards the river for safety.

"It got washed away in the strong current of the river, eventually getting trapped at the Virbhadra barrage gate in Rishikesh town," a forest official said.

He added that the water pressure at the barrage gate had made it impossible to lift the elephant with a crane.

"The only way to save the elephant was by reducing the water level."

Sanatan Sonker, director of the tiger reserve, told the BBC that the rescue officials had done "a commendable job".

"The high volume of water was making the elephant struggle and that is why we decided to save him quickly," he said.

"The water level decreased for a few minutes and we were able to successfully rescue the elephant."

He added that the elephant's movement was being monitored to ensure his safety.

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