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It was all’s well that ends well for this young elephant after it fell into a mud pit in Kenya.
After wallowing in the dank ditch for up to 12 hours, this is the dramatic moment a digger saved the large mammal from a trunkful of trouble in a heroic rescue attempt.
The heart-rending rescue took place near Makindu in Southern Kenya, where local farmers were shocked to find the distressed male elephant desperately trying to escape from a deep mud pit.
Wildlife photographer Jeremy Goss, 30, was on the scene to capture these dramatic photos and video footage
Unable to help the large mammal climb the steep clay sides, wildlife conservationists enlisted the aid of a heroic construction company, who used their digger to plow the elephant to safety.
Conservation scientist and wildlife photographer Jeremy Goss, 30, was on the scene to capture these dramatic photos and video footage of the courageous rescue on farmland bordering Chyulu Hills National Park.
Can you dig it? The JCB excavates the elephant to safety
He said: “It was heartbreaking to see the elephant in the well, particularly because the community had not been very keen or able to help it out.
“Elephants raid their crops and are generally not welcome, but it was a shocking sight for them nonetheless.
It is believed the young African elephant, which can weigh up to seven tonnes, the same weight as a London double-decker bus, had been trapped in the murky sludge for up to 12 hours after it fell in the well while taking a drink.
The elephant was thought to be searching for water in the area, which is experiencing an unusually intense dry period, when it discovered the man-made drinking well on farmland bordering Chyulu Hills National Park, near the town of Makindu.
He said: “It was heartbreaking to see the elephant in the well, particularly because the community had not been very keen or able to help it out.”
However, Wildlife conservationists and park rangers from The Kenya Wildlife Service and Big Life Foundation were quick to the scene to help excavate the animal from its muddy prison.
After it became clear there was no way for wildlife rangers to break the slippery bank, it was left to a digger from Chinese company China Road and Bridge Corporation, working on a nearby railway, to cultivate a gap in the bank allowing the mammal to walk to freedom.
Exhausted from the ordeal, the elephant, which was too tired to move from the ditch, was eventually encouraged to make its dash out onto the open plains after being nudged by the digger.
The heart-rending moment the elephant finally escaped from the ditch
Jeremy said: “This elephant had gone into a human-dominated farming area that borders a national park at night to find water in a man-made well.
“The area has been experiencing a very dry period and water is hard to find.
“He must have slipped in while drinking and couldn’t get out because of the steep clay sides.
“Wildlife conservationists watched helplessly for hours as the animal struggled in the well, but thankfully the Chinese construction company came to the rescue by providing the machine.
“The digger managed to get the elephant out by digging one side out of the well, the operator having to make precision movements to avoid hitting the elephant in the small well.
“Once it emerged, it seemed very tired but otherwise seemingly unharmed.”
The large mammal was initially unable to climb the steep clay sides
Following the rescue, rangers were called upon to escort the elephant from the farmland back into Chyulu Hills National Park, home to the highest mountain range in eastern Kenya.
Using land cruisers in tandem with a helicopter, the rangers tried to push the elephant in the direction of the 100-kilometer long national park, preventing it from moving back towards other farms and settlements.
Jeremy said: “There was then a difficult process where rangers had to prevent the elephant from moving back towards other farms, there were still lots of people that had been watching the rescue and they had to flee as the elephant ran in different directions.
“But it was a wonderful moment watching him escape from the well. It was because of humans that he ended up in trouble, but humans were able to help him survive.
“I just hope that he moved back into the safe natural area, and takes a bit more care next time he goes for a drink.”