By Hayley Pugh
A baby elephant so caked in mud it was barely visible has been hauled to safety and reunited with its mum after tourists spotted its tiny trunk moving around.
The calf was discovered by visitors on a drive at Tsavo East National Park in Kenya – its moving trunk the only sign of life – and is thought to have been trapped deep in the muddy hole for several hours.
Its mum, who rescuers believe had already tried and failed to save her baby, watched on as teams from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), helped by the DSWT/ KWS Anti-Poaching, used straps to haul the youngster to safety.
It took the group 30 minutes but they eventually managed to free the elephant from its muddy prison and reunite it with its mum.
Angela Sheldrick, chief executive of the DSWT, said: “It was evident the calf had been there for many hours.
“Clearly the mother had churned up the mud long and hard, desperately trying to extract her calf, but had finally given up and moved away.
“As the teams began to circle the waterhole, a single female elephant returned to the site where everyone was congregated, circling from a distance, agitated with her head held high and tail in the air, and it was immediately assumed she was the mother.
“She begun to mock charge the men, concerned by what might be happening to her stricken baby.
“Thankfully this was more posturing than a display of full intent, and it was as if she suspected help might be at hand.
“The teams worked swiftly placing straps around the baby and, while knee deep in mud, heaved and pulled until they were able to bring him to the harder edges of the waterhole, eventually extracting the bogged little baby completely.
“By this time, the mother understood that her calf was being helped, and the moment he was safely on his feet, he ran to her side.
“It was a joyful reunion, and he immediately began to suckle as the rest of the herd returned in celebration.
“Of course, these are the best kind of stories, the ones that have such happy endings, and the DSWT teams are proud to be able to save these babies and return them to their desperate mothers.
“Over the years we have been in a position to attend to numerous such cases, reuniting calves successfully with their mother and families.
“It is not always the case that this is possible, but it is always cause for great joy when things work out as they should and, on this day, thankfully the mother boldly returned just when she thought all hope was lost.”