Even though they can a bit obtuse, elephants are among the most intelligent and intuitive species in the animal kingdom. Just like humans, they wear their hearts on their sleeves, and when something bothers them, it’s rather obvious. Such was the case with one Indian elephant in 2015.
A crowd gathered to watch this particular elephant digging a hole in the mud for 11 hours straight and all through the night. Of course, the villagers knew this wasn’t typical behavior—something was terribly wrong to make her behave this way. Then the bystanders realized what she was doing and they were horrified…
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?
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.
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?
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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!
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.
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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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
When it comes to helping, It goes without saying that naval officers are the people you want around when there’s trouble on the water—and this was no truer than when sailors off the coast of Sri Lanka spotted a strange shape in the water recently.
It was July of 2017, and a Sri Lankan naval vessel had been performing a series of practice maneuvers in the ocean. The officers didn’t expect that their drills would turn into a real-life emergency, but that’s exactly what happened.
As the sailors entered deeper waters, they noticed a strange shape that seemed to be struggling beneath the surface. Curious, they diverted from their course to see if they could help. They had no idea what they were getting into…
Once they got close to the object, they were utterly shocked: the strange shape struggling in the water was an elephant! The poor animal had somehow found himself more than nine miles into the open sea—and he was swimming for his life.
The crew immediately sprang into action, and they tried to plan the best way to save the struggling elephant. They quickly alerted the Department of Wildlife, too. After all, they weren’t animal experts, and they would need all the help they could get…
With no time to lose, the sailors moved as close as they safely could to the struggling elephant so they could secure him with ropes. It was a tricky task; no one wanted to distress the animal or put him in more danger than he already was.
This brave officer led the way. He dove into the water and risked his life to tie rope around the frantic creature. Though the elephant was clearly in trouble, that didn’t mean he still couldn’t harm the officer.
Time was of the essence, but the officers also needed to work as carefully as possible. Though the elephant was able to breathe, he was thrashing about in the water—and the ocean was rough. Once secured, the officers attached the ropes to the boat.
With the elephant dragging behind, the ship slowly returned toward shallow waters. No one knew how the poor creature ended up so far out at sea, though some speculated that he likely got caught up in a strong current.
While the officers’ actions were critical to rescuing the elephant, they wouldn’t be able to consider the mission a success until they safely handed the animal over to the experts at the Department of Wildlife…
With the rescue portion of the mission complete, the Department of Wildlife took over. “Having safely guided the elephant to the Yan Oya area in Pulmodai, the animal was handed over to the wildlife officials for onward action.”
Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon to find elephants wandering into the surf for a dip in the cool, refreshing water. Unfortunately for this particular pachyderm, the situation became dire as soon as he got too far out to return to shore.
It might sound crazy, but elephants have been known to swim out even further than the nine miles this elephant journeyed! But, clearly, this one bit off more than he could chew.
Elephants have even been known to use their trunks as snorkels when they are swimming in deeper water. It’s almost as if they’re in a Looney Tunes cartoon! Can you imagine this strange sight while on a boat in the ocean?
Interestingly, biologists believe that elephants are very closely related to another animal who loves the water: the manatee! Some researchers believe that elephants first came to Sri Lanka by swimming there. Perhaps this goofy guy just wanted to take a vacation?
Still, this was a case where an elephant definitely needed a hand. “[Elephants] can’t keep swimming for long because they burn a lot of energy,” explained a representative from the Department of Wildlife. “And the salt water isn’t good for their skin, so in this case, the situation probably warranted human intervention.”
Of course, it was possible that this elephant was simply trying to cross Kokkilai Lagoon, a popular spot for elephants, when the current from the open ocean carried him out into more treacherous waters.
Asian elephants are known to travel small distances through the water. In fact, tourists often flock to watch elephants cross the waters that connect India and Myanmar. It’s a spectacular sight.
Whatever caused this elephant to get dragged out to the ocean was neither here nor there; what mattered most was that the naval officers and the Department of Wildlife were able to return the elephant to his family on dry land!
When all was said and done, the sailors would never forget their adventure with the lovable elephant, whom they since nicknamed Jumbo. Hopefully, Jumbo learned a valuable lesson and he will stay away from strong currents from now on.