The African villagers watched in horror and awe as one of the most powerful animals on the planet struggled to free itself from the quagmire. However, the elephant had exhausted itself in its battle with the bog, and it looked like it had almost given up the fight. As it flailed weakly, they saw that its life was ebbing. Then — as one — the village folk realized what they had to do.
On Saturday, March 5, 2016 the inhabitants of a small North Kenyan settlement near the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy got a big surprise — literally. Passers-by discovered a bull elephant had somehow got trapped in a well and was unable to get out. The huge mammal appeared to the villagers to have been stuck there for some time.
The incident was rapidly covered across social media, including Facebook and Instagram. In fact, one of the Kenyan locals posted pictures of the episode on their account. “This poor bull elephant got terribly stuck in the mud,” Jules Binks wrote on Instagram. Describing himself as “#instaobsessed!!”, here at least was a spectacle worthy of his enthusiasm.
“[He was found] in a semi-dry well near a conservancy,” Binks explained. “He must have fallen in the night before, and was exhausted from his efforts.” But it wasn’t just the depth of the well that had cemented the elephant in place.
Indeed, as Binks described, the well was partly dried out — but some of it was still waterlogged. The combination of mud and water had turned the well into a quagmire that stuck the elephant firmly in place. In other words, it had transformed the water pool into something akin to a tar pit.
But although the elephant’s strength was waning by the time the villagers came across him, the bull hadn’t given up the struggle. Not only was he still thrashing around with the last of his energy, he was also wary of the humans. “When we arrived on the scene he was very nervous,” Binks said.
“Although he was very weak he still managed to [thrash] around a bit. [Just] to show us he still had some fight left in him.” Under the circumstances, Binks and company decided that there was only one thing they could do for the imprisoned elephant.
Binks and the other on-lookers realized they had to keep the poor mammal alive until he could be rescued. They started by fetching the elephant some water; since he had been struggling desperately for so long, he was severely dehydrated. Initially, though, he was still wary of the humans until he realized that they were trying to help him.
“The poor bull elephant was so thirsty,” Binks told his Instagram followers. “We decided to give him some water which [he] drank timidly at first. But it didn’t take long for him to start gulping it down.” Subsequently, the trapped elephant seemed to know he was amongst friends.
And Binks thought so too: “It’s incredible how this wild powerful creature completely put his trust in us. I really felt like he knew we were there to help! What an incredible experience!” But it wasn’t just Binks and his friends from the village who were trying to aid the elephant.
Someone had called for serious reinforcements. As a result, before too long expert rescuers were making tracks to the well. Representatives from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the local Northern Rangelands Trust and the Save the Elephants charity joined the village community to form a coalition of compassion.
The tar-like mud of the well held the heavy creature fast and without help, the elephant would be doomed. However, the coalition was now united in an immense effort to free him. While some of the rescue team were rehydrating the massive mammal, others approached the edge of the well to get a closer look.
It was decided that now the elephant was at least in part rehydrated, they should begin work to dig him out. Batian Craig, another Instagrammer who was present, also remarked on the animal’s trust. “It still amazes me how calm he was with all the noise going on around him,” he wrote.
Craig also revealed that the elephant’s rescue also had other spectators. “There was about 300 head of cattle being watered right next to him – you can just hear the singing of the herders.” Yet even combined with the din of the digging, the stricken pachyderm was patient with his rescuers.
As determined diggers attacked the sides of the well with farming equipment, other helpers created a makeshift harness for the elephant. “We were trying to get the ropes beneath him so that we could pull him out,” Binks explained. Despite the huge number of volunteers present, however, something stronger than just manpower was required.
Consequently, the rescue team used three cars in their efforts to pull the elephant from his muddy predicament. And the plan was a success — they managed to partially extricate him from the bog. Moreover, as the volunteers revealed more of the elephant, they realized just how massive their new friend was.
“[It] really show[ed] is his size — hidden by the mud before, he really was a big bull,” Craig explained. The experts estimated the elephant to be about 20 years old. “Once two-thirds of the way out he was [tranquilizer] darted, to allow us to remove all the straps that we had attached to him.”
“The remaining rope was attached to his tusk and looped behind his head to aid him to his feet once he was brought round.” The coalition made one last haul and suddenly, after his epic struggle, the elephant was fully free. “He removed this last rope using his trunk,” Craig wrote.
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy also uploaded the amazing story onto its Facebook page. It also revealed that it took three cars, some 26 gallons of water for rehydration, and four hours of manual labor to rescue the trapped elephant.
Craig told his Instagram fans: “[It] was an incredible success.” He also said that rangers from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy kept tabs on the elephant afterwards. “We are delighted to report that [he] has since been sighted and is doing well.”