Trapped in the mud and sinking fast, this pair of elephants seemed doomed.
The mother had gone to the rescue of her baby but had got stuck herself – leaving the rest of the herd understandably wary of trying to save them.
So, with no time to lose, a team of conservation workers sprang into action.
The family herd desperately tries to help the stricken mother and calf as they lie in the lagoon
The mud dries quickly making their mistake harder and the window of time for rescue much shorter
Workers managed to slip a rope under the baby before the hard work of pulling her free begins
The team of workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society pulls the calf first, avoiding the mother’s thrashing trunk
Thinking on their feet, they first slipped a rope under and around the calf and began to pull.
A couple of attempts were made to release the youngster, but it wanted to stay with its mother and resisted.
Eventually, managing to avoid the mother’s thrashing trunk, they dragged the calf to safety. But rescuing the much-heavier mother was always going to prove more difficult.
The rope had to be attached to the back of a tractor as they strained to pull her free. Finally, they succeeded in saving her from the muddy grave, and she raced off to rejoin the herd – and her baby.
The dramatic rescue took place on the flats of the Kapani Lagoon in Zambia.
The calf appears to be calling for help while her mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets underway
Some would argue that rescuing the mother and baby meddles with the natural order
Although the calf appears to be almost free of the drying mud pool, she looks back to her mother
Shouting and waving frantically, the team tries to deter the youngster from returning to its mother
A final attempt is made to pull the calf further away from its mother who continues to thrash around in the mud
Rachel McRobb, part of the rescue team from the South Luangwa Conservation Society, said: ‘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.’
Before the rescue by workers from conservation society, Kapani Lodge and Norman Carr Safaris the mother and calf’s herd tries to rescue the pair.
When they are unable to do anything, the team – along with members of the Zambian Wildlife Authority – moves in while the herd waits on the other side of some trees.
At one point, the calf appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets underway
Finally, there is some joy as the ropes are removed from the calf elephant after it is pulled clear
A cousin from her herd calls to her and she makes a dash for freedom
The focus then turns to the mother elephant who is becoming tired after struggling for so long
Manpower would not be enough to pull the adult elephant from what would have been a muddy grave
After an inch by inch struggle, she eventually senses freedom and starts to scramble through the mud once more
She cries out for her baby and the herd who is waiting for her just beyond the trees
A little weak and wobbly, she makes her escape to the delight of everyone who helped
After the long struggle, the mother makes a dash towards her calf and waiting for a family
By RICHARD HARTLEY-PARKINSON