Elephant Herd Rescued After Harrowing Ordeal in Mud Trap

By George Dvorsky on at

Late last week, 11 Asian elephants at Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary ambled into a mud-filled bomb crater that dates back to the Vietnam War. Unable to get out, and with the mud quickly drying, the elephants’ situation become dire — prompting conservation officials to spring into action.

As reported yesterday by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the hole’s 10-foot walls were too high for the elephants to scale. They went in to take a bath, and ended up stuck in a mud-filled death trap. As they struggled to get out, and as the mud began to dry, the elephants became increasingly entrenched. It was like some kind of prehistoric scene when creatures fell victim to tar pits.

Over the years, local farmers had enlarged the hole and used it to store water. When they discovered the elephants, the farmers called the Department of Environment, who in turn notified the WCS to mount a rescue.

The rescuers delivered food and water to the elephants while a makeshift ramp was constructed. After several hours, 10 of the 11 elephants had managed to climb up the ramp and leave the hole of their own accord. The last elephant struggled to get out, and had to be pulled out by a rope. The sense of relief among the rescued elephants is palpable in the video taken of the rescue.

“This is a great example of everyone working together in Cambodia to save wildlife,” said Dr Ross Sinclair, WCS Country Director, in a release. “Too often the stories around conservation are about conflict and failure, but this is one about cooperation and success.”

The Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, which encompasses 292,690 hectares, is one of the most important habitats for Asian elephants in Cambodia. The protected area is also home to more than 60 species of animal and plants on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List that are threatened with extinction. [Wildlife Conservation Society]