Elephant mother saves her calf from near drowning

Ian and Debbie McFarlane share their special sighting of an elephant herd helping a distressed calf.

Debbie and Ian live in Port Elizabeth and are regular visitors to Addo Elephant Park. They usually go for day trips, but a couple of weeks ago they camped at Addo for the weekend.

On Saturday morning 16 March, they went for an early game drive. They headed for the Hapoor Dam, via Gwarrie Pan and Rooidam. At Rooidam they saw a herd of buffalo wallowing in the mud. They got to Hapoor around 9 am and things were quite busy already. There were about 40 elephants in the vicinity of the waterhole.

Not long after the arrival, there was a commotion among a section of the herd that was standing at the edge of the dam. A lot of the ellies were very agitated, trumpeting and shuffling around. One of the SanParks Honorary Rangers and his wife were in the vehicle parked next to Debbie and Ian. They overheard him tell his wife that a baby ellie had fallen into the dam and that’s when Debbie and Ian realised what had upset the herd.

It was very upsetting for them to witness the helpless calf floundering in the water. Debbie and Ian were tempted to drive off because it was so distressing to watch, but on the other hand, it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to record the event in pictures, in the hope that it would all turn out okay.

Fortunately the drama did not last too long, it was all over within about five minutes, but there was a great sense of relief when the calf had been rescued. There were at least a dozen vehicles at Hapoor at the time and some of the people couldn’t bear to watch and drove off. A lady in a car next to them was in tears, so it had a huge impact on everyone who witnessed it.


This angle shows the herd next to the dam after the calf had fallen into the water.


This picture was taken from another angle after Ian and Debbie moved their vehicle. The calf is clearly distressed and hasn’t a hope of getting up the muddy embankment.  


One of the herd trying to help the calf out of the water.


Looking promising – another member of the herd is helping and the calf is almost out.


Oops… the calf is slipping back into the water.


The calf has slid all the way back into the water.


Back to square one. You can almost read the mind of the mother standing on the bank looking at her floundering calf – time for plan B.


Plan B being put into action – the mother decides the only way to help the calf is to get into the water with it. 


A bit of a scary moment – mother is in the water, but Ian and Debbie can’t see the calf.


The calf has surfaced again and is being escorted to the bank by the mother.


Edging towards the bank, with other members of the herd waiting to assist.


Halfway there, things looking promising again.


Almost there, one final heave. 


Safe and sound – mother and calf walking off happily with the rest of the herd.

Please note: This article has been copied and adapted from www.wildcard.co.za


2 thoughts on “Elephant mother saves her calf from near drowning

  1. Wow this is the most adorable thing I have ever seen. your photos are great!! I would have loved to have been there! If you could have a quick scroll over my blog it would be much appreciated, Thanks 🙂

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