On March 24, 2017, a collaborative effort between local farmers and conservationists saved 11 Asian elephants that had gotten stuck in a mud hole in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia.
The hole – a mud-filled old bomb crater that dates to the Vietnam War – had been enlarged by farmers to store water. Its roughly 10-foot (3-meter) walls were too high for the elephants to scale and, as the mud dried, the elephants became further entrenched.
When the farmers discovered the elephants, they notified the Department of Environment, who in turn notified the World Conservation Society (WCS) to mobilize a rescue.
The team helped water and feed the elephants to hold them over while a ramp was constructed for the elephants to escape.
A few hours after the work began, all were free.
The rescue averted what would have been a tragedy, said Tan Setha, WCS Technical Advisor to the protected area. Setha said in a statement:
This herd consisted of three adult females and eight juveniles of various ages, including a male that had almost reached maturity. These elephants represent an important part of the breeding population in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, and their loss would have been a major blow for conservation.
Dr Ross Sinclair, WCS Cambodia Country Director, added:
This is a great example of everyone working together in Cambodia to save wildlife. Too often the stories around conservation are about conflict and failure, but this is one about cooperation and success. That the last elephant to be rescued needed everyone to pull together on a rope to drag it to safety is symbolic of how we have to work together for conservation.
Bottom line: Eleven Asian elephants were rescued from a mudhole in Cambodia in March 2017, thanks to a collaboration between local farmers and conservatioinists.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.