Elephants stuck in mud

We’ve just heard the most amazing tale from our friends at Norman Carr Safaris in Zambia.  Christina tells the tale …

Most conservationists believe that man should not meddle with the natural order and that we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. We agree on the whole, unless a wildlife problem has been created by man (for instance in the case of snaring or being trapped in a fence, in which case it’s justifiable to intervene) then nature should be left to her own devices. She has a plan.

However – every rule has an exception and the dreadful plight of a baby elephant trapped in the mud of the Kapani Lagoon and her mother, who had also got stuck trying to save her yesterday had us all in a frenzy of activity. We simply could not stand by and watch them struggle and slowly die. South Luangwa Conservation Society together with our neighbours – ZAWA – the wildlife authority – agreed with us and we all joined forces to try and save the mum and baby. (Photos by Abraham of Norman Carr Safaris).

Mother and baby elephants stuck in mudMother and baby elephants stuck in mud

The family herd desperately tried to help the screaming Mum and baby escape but they were completely stuck in the deep, rapidly drying mud with no chance of getting out.The brave and skilled SLCS team manages to slip a rope under the baby, narrowly avoiding mums thrashing trunk  –  and starts to haul her out ….

Baby ele being pulled outBaby ele being pulled out
Baby making escapeBaby making escape

Nearly there – the whole team is hauling as hard as they can…..   But the baby is terribly frightened and won’t leave mum’s side.  One more try – the team pull her further away from mum this time…..They unwrap the ropes and help her to her feet. This time – thanks to a young herd cousin calling her to safety, she makes a dash for it as the rest of the herd scream for her to come to them.

Mum elephant and tractorMum elephant and tractor

Now back to mum who is dehydrated and exhausted – we’ve been pouring water over her to try to protect her from the scorching midday sun. SLCS staff carefully slip a rope under her….  and the tractor starts to pull and pull – inching her out of what would have been a muddy grave  – she seems to sense that there’s a chance of escape and begins to struggle for her life…

With us all shouting encouragment and just willing her to keep going “come on Mama, come on Mama”……. to the delight of us all – she makes it! Weak and wobbly she drags herself out and runs to find her baby
and the rest of her waiting herd! The happiest possible ending.

Mum ele escaping from mud

This is all in a day’s work for the amazing Rachel McRobb and her outstanding team at The South Luangwa Conservation Society. Go to – it’s a fantastic site and well worth a visit. You will be amazed at what this relatively small group can achieve – their dedication and commitment to wildlife is inspiring.

Together with our local wildlife authority – the South Luangwa Area Management Unit of the Zambia
Wildlife Authority, they are extremely effective at anti-poaching activities including anti-snaring and patrolling in vulnerable areas of the National Park. Rachel and her team are also skilled at darting snared animals,
removing the snares and treating the horrific wounds they cause.

Their awareness raising activities and work with other local conservation groups are incredibly effective. Of course – this all takes money so please consider becoming a regular supporter.

Our MD Dave Wilson and NCS Director Adrian Carr are both active trustees in SLCS.

It was extremely heartening for us all to see how many local people joined in the efforts to free these two elephants – the cheers of joy, first when the baby ran to his cousin and then when Mum was finally released from the jaws of the sticky, cloying mud were wonderful! Everyone seemed to identify with the mum’s
plight  – we all saw the incredible emotional bond between the worried herd members and mum and baby.

Thank you SLCS and ZAWA and also all the NCS staff who bravely fought to make this a happy ending!

And everyone at Tribes sends huge congratulations for an amazing job.

Amanda Marks - Author

Amanda Marks is a founder and director of Tribes Travel. She believes travel opens hearts and minds.

Read more articles