Last ditch effort: The moment the guides risked their lives in a desperate battle to save a baby elephant stuck up to its neck in mud for four days.

Last ditch effort: The moment the guides risked their lives in a desperate battle to save a baby elephant stuck up to its neck in mud for four days.

Young elephant spent up to four days stuck in the mud in Zimbabwe and tourists and safari guides tried to save him

Len Taylor, a guide at a nearby lodge, climbed into the mud with the bull and spent six hours battling to free him

Despite their efforts, the struggle proved too much for the animal and the decision was taken to put him down

Pictures have emerged of safari guides risking their own lives to mount a desperate battle to save a young elephant who was stuck up to his neck in mud for up to four days.

The small bull used his trunk as a snorkel as rescuers worked around the clock using a tractor, ropes and their bare hands to try and pull him out.

But after finally dragging him to dry land, days under the fierce African sun without water or food proved too much and the elephant had to be put down.

 

Rescue attempt: Len Taylor, a guide at Gache Gache Lodge, climbed into the mud with the elephant and spent six hours trying to save it

Stuck: The helpless young bull had spent up to four agonising days trapped in the mud and had been using its trunk as a snorkel

Hero: Guide Len Taylor, who spent six hours trying to rescue the young elephant, climbed onto its back to take a rest from the mud

Caked: The poor young elephant was covered in mud in Zimbabwe from top to bottom after being stuck for up to four days in the hot sun

Guides from Gache Gache Lodge on Lake Kariba, only a few minutes from where the elephant was stranded, risked their lives to climb into the mud with the animal in order to tie a rope around his body, getting slapped by his trunk in the process. Guests also took shifts in the race against time to save him.

 

Len Taylor, a guide at Gache Gache Lodge only a few minutes from where the elephant was stranded, climbed into the mud with the elephant and spent six hours battling to free him.

He told MailOnline: ‘Even though he was quite young, he was certainly big enough to kill us. He was extremely distressed and fearful, he was making a lot of noise and was smacking his trunk about – I got hit a few times.

‘I did manage to avoid the tusks, because if you get hit by one of those it would break your leg easily.

‘The biggest problem was to try and get the rope around his belly – the mud was so thick, we just couldn’t get through it with the ropes. In the end, I worked out a way of getting the rope around his neck so he could be pulled out without being strangled.

‘Once it looked like we could get him out, my biggest fear was that he would try and kill us once he was free. Elephants are extremely aggressive when they are distressed and he of course had no idea we were trying to save him – he is a wild animal so his instinct would be to kill us.

Found: This was the scene when tourists and guides found the young elephant stuck in the mud. The tractor in the background was later used to try and pull it out

Trapped: It’s  thought the elephant had been stuck in the thick mud for up to four days in the African sun, causing it to become dehydrated

Creative: Len tried to get the rope under the elephant’s belly using long sticks while the terrified animal tried to hit the men with its trunk

‘I did not want to have to free him and only then have to shoot him in self defence. As it was, he was too weak to come after us.’

Len, 40, and the rest of the rescue team did their best to get the elephant on to his belly once he was out of the mud – giving him the best chance of getting up on his feet to eat and drink.

‘An elephant will struggle to get up if he lies on his side, unless he has an ant hill or something to lean against,’ Mr Taylor said. ‘We managed to get him propped up on his belly and left him alone to recover a bit overnight.

‘But when we went back the next morning, he had not managed to get up and he was just weaker. By midday, he was just suffering and had no chance of getting up, so we decided to put him out of his misery. He was dying and stressed and it was the right thing to do for him.’

Race against time: Melissa Mackenzie, who was a guest at the lodge, posted pictures of the desperate battle to save the stricken bull. Alongside this picture, she wrote: ‘Gets dark so fast here, had to act quickly’

Stumbling blocks: The biggest problem was trying to get a rope around the stricken elephant’s belly because the mud was so thick

Progress: Once the rope was tied around the elephant’s neck without strangling him, the men tried to pull the young bull out of the mud

Ray Townsend, who works at the lodge, said: ‘Even though he was eventually pulled out, he could not stand, could not get up by himself.’

‘Time is as always crucial in these matters and he was stuck in the mud longer than we thought – three to four days with dehydration, no water, in the hot sun and slowly exhausting himself from trying to get out,’ he added. ‘In the end, putting him down was the kindest thing we could have done for him.

‘Watching an animal die of thirst in the bush is not something we wanted to witness, or put him through. It was a sad situation, but we are glad that we made the effort we did.’

Mr Townsend explained that the decision to put the exhausted animal down came after it became clear he wouldn’t be able to stand up or survive his ordeal.

Fears: Len said: ‘Once it looked like we could get him out, my biggest fear was that he would try and kill us once he was free’

Efforts: The men, covered in mud themselves, pulled the exhausted young bull out of the mud but then had to stop it falling back in

‘After an extremely long wait for this boy to get up, bearing in mind that an adult or sub adult elephant cannot be left down for too long, the decision was made by Parks and Wildlife department to euthanise him,’ he said.

Melissa Mackenzie, who was a guest at the lodge, posted an album of dramatic pictures of the desperate battle to save the stricken bull online.

She wrote on her Facebook page: ‘Although we managed to get him out, he was too weak and exhausted to stand, and unfortunately didn’t survive.

‘Although not a happy ending, it was still nice to see a group of people give up their time and come together to give an animal a second chance at life. They couldn’t have tried harder.’

 

Worry: ‘Elephants are extremely aggressive when they are distressed and he of course had no idea we were trying to save him,’ Len said

Struggle: The elephant had spent up to four days with without water in the hot sun and slowly exhausting itself trying to get out

Unhappy ending: The decision to put the animal down came after it became clear it wouldn’t be able to stand up or survive the ordeal

 

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