We all know elephants are some of the biggest creatures in the animal kingdom. In these times, people are lucky to be able to get a good close up look at these gentle giants. They can be seen on safaris, in amusement parks, and in zoos everywhere.
Some elephants are taken from the wild and selectively bred so they can produce the best offspring. This might bring much joy to people, but is our joy really more important than other animals’?
Even with many animals being bred in captivity, thankfully there are still many animals that are left to their own devices in the wild. Elephants like this seldom come into contact with humans. In general, these animals are completely independent of humans and should be left alone, however, there are still certain situations where action is needed.
This is such a case. An infant elephant has gotten itself stuck. The herd had no other choice to get the attention of humans so they could step in and help. When rescue workers came to the scene that the elephants guided them to, they had to act fast.
India has many remote regions where elephants run wild. Even without being seen much, there’s no mistaking that they demand respect. The locals understand and leave the elephants to their privacy and each can, therefore, live peacefully.
Elephants are peaceful if unprovoked and aren’t a danger to anyone. But if they feel threatened they can exhibit incredible strength on their attacker. Seeing elephants from the Indian towns is a rare and beautiful sight.
At the most southern part of India lies a river called the Urulanthanni. On either side of the river are dense forests that house the proud elephants. The local workers in the area have befriended the giants but still know to keep their distance.
The vibrations that a passing herd would make could be comparable to a passing train. Residents say the experience is exhilarating, the elephants seem to plot out their routes so they walk together with purpose.
The marching herd would pass by every day, so there wasn’t anything different on this particular day. But something was wrong this time. As they marched along to the Urulanthanni forest, an infant elephant got into trouble.
Since the infants were not used to crossing the river, the herd had to follow along the tight banks. This turned out to be challenging for the small elephant.
The small elephant was only one-sixth the size of a full-grown elephant. When the herd decided it was time to cross the body of water, the poor calf lost its footing and slipping into a gap between the river and the bank.
The calf couldn’t get itself out. The ground was slippery with mud, leaving the infant immobilized in the gap. The gap was so small none of the bigger adults could climb in to help the baby, and they didn’t even know how to help. They needed to save their baby before the water rose and the elephant drowned — how were they going to get him out?
The herd became unorganized when they saw the baby in the hole. The hole was way too narrow for the baby to climb out, not to mention how slippery it was.
The hole was so narrow the baby could barely move. It tried and tried but there wasn’t enough space for it to maneuver. The herd didn’t know what to do. What could they do?
To make matters even worse, the calf was getting tired out from the batter-like mud sticking to its feet. It felt like walking on semi-set concrete.
The baby did the only thing that it could do at that moment. It started to sadly cry out in fear. Its cries carried so much weight that the whole herd began to panic.
The only thing the herd of elephants could do was watch as poor infant kept attempting to get out. It was slipping and fighting to no avail. The herd knew that had to do something, and do something quick.
The calf kept trying its best to get out while the rest of the herd watched, motionless. Then something occurred to them all at once. They started making a huge commotion.
The calf started becoming tired and weak. As it started to give up, the herd had to do something about it. Their loud noises didn’t seem to be doing anything which separated them from the baby even more.
The baby didn’t have too much longer as it started feeling weaker and weaker. They knew just making a commotion wasn’t enough, it wouldn’t save their baby.
Elephants are generally smart creatures, but the situation the calf was in was nothing they could solve on their own. They knew that trying to help it get out on their own would only make matters worse.
As the minutes turned into hours, the danger and imminent death of the baby was becoming a much bigger possibility. However, it seemed that their efforts to do something were not working.
Elephants are known to travel in groups, which is one of the most important strategies to ensure their survival against predators. Their gigantic size is a major deterrent to many other animals, though there are specific types of predators that they try to avoid at all cost.
Like humans, elephant families are close and intact, and all members are deeply valued. Wherever they go, they make sure that nobody, not one, is left behind. That said, when one of them falls into danger, the rest of the group will not rest until a solution is found, even if it means putting their own lives at risk.
As if being trapped wasn’t bad enough, the scorching heat made the entire ordeal doubly excruciating for the entire herd. Despite the intense weather, one thing was clear, however. Not one elephant was going to leave the pack, despite the fact that the only thing they could do was to make plenty of noise and move around restlessly.
The movements and brays weren’t just because they were screaming for help — it was because they, too, were losing their own energy and were in pain. The baby elephant still remained almost immobile by the thick mud. And as the sun soaked up the moisture from the soil, it became tougher and tougher to move. It seemed that it was only a matter of time before the calf met its doom.
Several hours had already passed and the situation was not improving. The little elephant was losing its consciousness and the sun’s heat was making everything worse.
The adult elephants were still in a circle around the ravine. They couldn’t do anything for their little family member, but they also weren’t leaving him behind. When the baby’s eyes had started to close out of exhaustion and, perhaps, imminent death, the herd collectively began to scream. The cry of anguish was thunderous and heard across the forest.
It was then when the older elephants had begun sending out warning signs. It was a deafening sound that was as heartbreaking as it was loud. If you were within earshot of this call, it was something you wouldn’t be able to ignore.
This was a thing among elephants. When they meet danger and are distraught, they heave out a distress signal that sounds just like trumpeting. As their youngest herd member began to show signs of succumbing to death, the trumpets came long and loud.
Humans cannot easily understand the way animals speak, but whoever heard this collective cry would know that it was inspired out of love and support for their family in trouble. The bigger elephants were not physically able to help, but they used their voices to call out for those who can.
The thought of waiting around and crying seems like an impractical solution to most people, but considering their mass, it was also the only thing that they could have done. Still, the loud cries continued and they weren’t giving up on that.
When the baby elephant heard the trumpets of its elders, a ray of hope shone upon him. He knew that he was loved, so he tried to be strong and clung to the small inch of hope that was left in him to survive.
Gathering all the strength he could find, the young one once again tried its hardest to kick its way out of the pit. But the hole was deep. When it seemed the baby had finally managed to reach the top, it slumped back in again and fell with a loud thump on the muddy bottom.
From a distance, the local community had heard the noises. They couldn’t figure out where it was coming from at first and what it had meant. Others thought it was noises from the nearby traffic, while others thought they were just hearing loud music being played.
But when the frantic braying continued, the people knew that it wasn’t just regular noise. Something was wrong.
The strange sounds made some locals terrified, but they were also hard to ignore. Some decided to rush towards the noise to find out where it was coming from and why it was being made. It seemed to come from the forest, a mile away from where they were located. A group of brave souls ran towards the direction of the trees.
As they grew closer, the sound became louder. One human had started to recognize it being a call for help, but they still pushed forward cautiously.
When the people reach the river, the weird noises became even more deafening. But it was already too far into the woods to retreat. They had to move forward, even with fear in their hearts.
They started to guess that it was coming from a herd of elephants — but they still didn’t know why. Were wild beasts attacking them? Was it even safe for them (the humans) to approach? A million questions raced through their minds.
The first instinct was to think that the elephants were being surrounded by feline predators. The locals knew that they could also be killed within seconds if they were spotted, but the cries had been so loud that they had to find out why they were being made. Elephants screaming was a rarity and their curiosity got the better of their fear.
As more and more residents followed the first group to find out what was going on, the frontliners mustered more courage to get closer. Whether it was a predator or a group of wild elephants, each one of them was also in danger, but they could not stop trying to get near.
On a regular day, humans in the area wouldn’t dare approach the animals in the wild. But this was a special and strange case. The elephants did not look angry at all.
In fact, the moment they spotted the humans, they seemed to become more relaxed and at ease.
While humans are generally smarter than animals, at this point, not one soul knew what to do. For a while, they were also just staring at the herd trying to make sense of what was going on. They looked around and spotted a distressed baby in the hole. Humans were a lot smaller than the elephants, but they were also not physically capable of getting the weak baby out of the pit on their own.
Since they could not possibly get the baby out with their bare hands, they called for more help. Surely the authorities would have the right equipment to rescue the calf from being trapped.
Some of the locals rushed back to the town to ask for assistance. As nighttime approached, the little elephant had become very weak, almost to the point of not moving. It just lay quietly inside the hole as if waiting for its doom.
By this time, outside the hole were the herd and some locals who stayed around to monitor the situation. Every second that passed was precious — and they were running out of time.
Finally, the sight of headlights was seen approaching from a distance and the locals had started to feel a glimmer of hope. Even the older elephants appeared to understand that help was definitely on its way. The rescue team had arrived.
The locals cleared the path for the team and some of the elephants started acting strangely at the sight of even more people. However, none of them showed any signs of agitation. It seemed that everyone, man and creature, knew that help has arrived — and they all wanted nothing more than to get the baby out of its misery.
The group that arrived consisted of wildlife and forest officers. They moved closer to the site to assess the gravity of the issue. They asked the locals to move to the side so they could get a good view. Even the elephants were gently herded away from the hole.
When they finally saw the baby elephant, it dawned on them. Even they couldn’t solve the problem on their own. They needed bigger equipment to get it done. One of the officers was then sent back to town to ask for more support. It seemed the issue will not see any resolution that day.
Having a trapped elephant was not normal in this part of India and being in such a situation meant the local authorities had to call for help from the more equipped agencies before heading to the forest. Once again, the baby elephant had a long wait ahead.
It was already getting darker but everyone had decided it was best to stay with the herd. If the animals were able to wait patiently, surely the humans who came after could also endure the wait. Night eventually turned to dawn, and a new day had already begun
The sun had already risen and all those who waited can only do one thing — wait even more. Suddenly, a loud rumbling was heard from a distance. It sounded like vehicles were approaching and, sure enough, more help had come. This time, they brought with them a huge excavator.
Even with the right machines, the challenge remained. How do you safely take a weary baby elephant out of the hole it’s been stuck in for more than 24 hours?
It was seven o’clock in the morning when the larger rescue team began their mission. The older elephants appeared to be restless and, perhaps, excited upon seeing what was happening.
With the elephants looking alive and hopeful once again, the rescuers had felt even more hell-bent to get their job done fast. They were going to get the baby out of the pit, no matter how hard it was. They were going to succeed.
As news of government rescue teams spread in the nearby villages, people naturally flocked to the site to see what was going on. The rescuers and some volunteers helped out to restrain some of the more curious bystanders from getting too close. The situation was serious and the site needed to be cleared and handled with care. They can’t have the people’s curious nature get in the way of this sensitive mission.
For one, while it was a baby elephant they were rescuing, it still weighed some 400 to 600 lbs. Human hands and strength definitely cannot handle it. Even with the equipment, the current health status of the calf was another cause for concern. Every millimeter counted.
Because the mud was so thick and almost dry, the made the baby elephant nearly immobile. When the rescuers starting moving the excavator, they knew they had to be extra careful. They were not amateurs, but things could still go wrong even when handled by experts. They looked for ways to dig the baby out without risking its life even further.
They tried digging in the area around the hole in a bid to widen the space where they could work. They couldn’t dig exactly where the calf was at the risk of endangering it more. When the hole was finally widened, the next challenge was getting the fallen elephant out. It was a sensitive job that would take several more hours to complete.
The locals thought rescuing the elephant was as simple as scooping it out of the ground and bringing it to safety. However, the experts knew there was no such thing as an easy excavation job — especially in this situation.
Even the older elephants appeared to be in full trust of the rescue team as they voluntarily stepped aside whenever the people and the machine came through. The equipment made the ground shake and it was noisy, but not one of the elephants waiting around responded negatively to what was happening. There seemed to be a mutual understanding among all — the goal was to ensure that the youngest member of the herd would eventually be safe.
The goal was to create a small path where the little one could slowly crawl out. However, this task is easier said than done.
The excavators had to be very careful not to let any of the mug being dug out go back into the hole, otherwise all of their efforts would be for naught. So instead of digging large amounts of mud at once, they had to do it inch by inch, very slowly.
The excavating machine had successfully dug enough space for the calf to move so there was room for the locals to step in and join the efforts. Some of the stronger villagers were called in to monitor the part of the soil where the machine needed to dig.
It was a collective effort, all with the goal of seeing the baby elephant safe once again. They all derived inspiration from the calf, who also seemed to be fighting its hardest to stay alive.
The wildlife officers were grateful for all the help that the locals offered. Despite their equipment, they knew they couldn’t have done the job without the strength of the community members, so they assigned someone to take charge in giving directions.
Sure, help was great, but they all needed to act carefully. One wrong move could send the entire operation into failure and even expose people to more risk. Some did not only offer their physical assistance. Others also went to provide food and drinks for those who were participating in the rescue.
All the noise and vibrations the machine was making was a disturbance for sure, but the wild elephants had appeared to stay calm in the heat of it all. It was already the second day of the rescue and not one of the elephants had left the scene.
The sight of the whole pack keeping a united front while waiting for their little one to be out safely inspired the people to move forward.
While everybody was busy with their respective tasks, the machine suddenly stopped working. The silence was defeaning and their hearts started to race when the vibrations halted. Something was wrong.
The operator tried several times to restart the engine but it refused to cooperate. They were so close to a solution. How could this be happening at this crucial time?
There was smoke coming from the excavator, signs that it had overheated. It had been working for hours trying to dig a wider hole around the baby elephant and it had finally given up.
Luckily, one of the locals was an expert on engines and offered to have a look at the machine. He had to act fast given how crucial the situation was. The clock continued to tick for the little creature trapped in the mud.
Because the excavator had broken down, there was no choice but to halt the operations temporarily. It was, perhaps, an opportune breakdown, too, because while the adrenaline was high, the people were clearly tired and exhausted. Concerned locals kept the snacks and beverages flowing for the men who had been working hard. But it also meant that the baby had to wait yet again.
When the older elephants realized what was happening, they started to trumpet in unison again. The rescuers had to get closer to the baby elephant to ensure that it was still holding on, giving it food and drink as needed. Fortunately, it also seemed unrelenting about giving up.
It was not an easy job and there was no quick way to get around it. The engine issue needed some time to be resolved and even after an hour of trying, the machine still wasn’t repaired. Another volunteer stepped up to give recommendations on how to fix the equipment and the elephants started making strange noises again.
While the mechanics were busy with the excavator, the other volunteers spared no time in also trying to dig manually as fast but as carefully as they could. Some of the elephants were braying, while some were restlessly pacing back and forth, so the others had to help calm them down. There was fear in some humans that the elephants would start attacking them out of desperation, but they continued to work knowing that a precious life depended on them.
When the excavator was finally back up and running, the small crowd couldn’t help but give out a celebratory cheer.
The mission was back on track and the little elephant will soon be brought to safety. Everybody felt energized and alive again with this glimmer of hope.
The original plan of creating a hole around was changed. They were now trying to create a trench. This would help them push the calf towards solid ground.
Since they were about to hold the baby, the rescuers were also wary about how the herd would react. But the elephants had also made it clear to everybody that they wanted the mission to be over and done with. The older ones made loud noises again that was heard from miles away. This increased the pressure on this workers, but their enthusiasm and excitement also doubled.
By the next afternoon, the long, tiresome and excruciating rescue mission had come to a close. There they were: a group of wildlife officers, local volunteers, a huge machine and a herd of elephants all gathered happily to finally see the baby elephant take its first steps outside of the pit where it had been trapped for more than two days.
What seemed like an impossible mission was made possible thanks to the strong determination and united effort of man, animal, and machine.
Again, none of the locals or the wild creatures were used to interacting with each other. Before all this happened, they pretty much left each other alone. Yet, at that very moment, everybody was filled with happiness and joy in seeing the baby elephant walk slowly yet determinedly towards his family. The mother elephant showed affection toward the young one. It was a beautiful sight.
The herd suddenly gave out a very loud cry, but this time it wasn’t out of sadness and fear — it was on appreciation and delight.
The humans watched as the older and bigger elephants made a circle around the youngest one and showed their affection towards it. It was then that the people realized, animals could also show so much love for one another like humans do.
As the herd moved towards the river, the older ones made sure that the little one would be protected. They guided it patiently until it had successfully crossed.
It was a gruelling two days and the herd seemed to be beaming with pride and joy when it all finally over. Some of the locals shed a tear while watching the herd slowly walk away with their little one, going back to the forest.
There were tears of joy everywhere, and it seemed that nobody wanted to leave the scene just yet. They were all rooted to the ground and the moment. It was the first time they all so something so heartwarming among wild animals.
All the herd’s attention was on the baby elephant, who seemed to be enjoying all the fuss. The experience was agonizing, but its family had never left, not even eating or drinking until they saw their baby safe.
When they saw their youngest member was starting to go weak and weary, the bigger ones lined up to help.
Crossing the river was not uncommon for these elephants. They had done this so many times before. But seeing what happened to their baby, they knew that they had to be extra cautious this time.
The baby was positioned in between the larger ones, with the parents constantly keeping an eye on their calf. Every step was now carefully planted. The locals started to feel like they were watching a grand show, so they decided to stay until the last member of the herd would be out of sight.
Once the group reached the other end of the river, something amazing happened. It was as if the wild elephants were saying goodbye to the humans.
They all stopped and looked back to give their thanks. This simple act, the locals knew, would be forever etched in their minds and hearts. It was truly a moment to remember.
But the moments of wonder and awe did not end just yet. The elephants started to form a line.
At first, the humans thought they were just resting after that harrowing experience. But, one by one, each elephant in the herd started to raise its trunk. What was happening?
Nobody ever thought how animals could show their gratitude for the humans but here it was right before their very eyes. When all the trunks were raised, they collectively gave out a trumpet sound. It was a rare sight.
The wild elephants were apparently giving them a salute. The spectators were all speechless, with some of them in tears at what they had witnessed.
The crowd of onlookers laughed to each other and congratulated one another for what they had achieved. They knew that everyone in the area gave their all to save the baby elephant. The salute from the massive animals was totally priceless. The grateful elephants continued on their procession. But that day, everyone knew that what happened would burn in their memories forever.
The herd of wild elephants began to look smaller and smaller to the eyes of the villagers. They began making their way into the forests. Nobody knew when they would be able to get as close to the wild beast as they were that day. The locals stayed on the other side of the river until the last elephant was out of sight. They had spent a considerable amount of time on the rescue mission and yet, their hearts were full. Every second was worth it.
More than half of the elephants in the entire Asian continent live in India. These wild beasts are very dear creatures to the Indian people and they are everywhere. Considering how large Asia is, you can only imagine the number of elephants living in this humble country. There are domesticated elephants almost everywhere and 20% of them play major roles in local businesses. For this reason alone, the Indian people give importance to the animals’ welfare and survival. Aside from aiding their living, the elephants are also closely tied to the country’s culture and religion. Perhaps that explains why the locals couldn’t ignore the scream of help from the massive beasts.
Once all the work was done, the wildlife officials gave a message to thank all the volunteers. The officials were happy that ordinary people didn’t think twice about helping them and the poor animal. Despite some of them having lost a day at work, the atmosphere was light and merry. The people shook hands before they headed home. It was a rare occurrence in the village and the locals knew they would be telling their kids about what happened in the years to come.