Baby elephant and mom get stuck in the mud, but are rescued by “first responders”

January 22, 2023 • 1:00 pm

If this video doesn’t make you tear up, you have a heart of stone!

This was a really dicey situation: a female African elephant gets badly stuck in the mud, and her baby, refusing to leave her side, gets stuck, too. It takes a bunch of people, a tractor, two trucks, and some anesthetic to get her free. In the end, all is well!

The YouTube notes from We Love Animals:

Baby elephant saved from muddy pit keeps running back to his mom’s side – but she’s still trapped, shoulder-deep, in the mud 🐘❤️

How did Mom get trapped in the first place?

11 thoughts on “Baby elephant and mom get stuck in the mud, but are rescued by “first responders”

    1. I agree. It is hard not to think of the wanton extermination of these clearly sentient animals as mass murder.

      1. The same logic applies a few hundred million-fold to chickens. OK, they’re dinosaurs, so we have an excuse for fearing them.
        Pigs on the other hand – fellow mammals. Totally safe from mass slaughter at the knives of humans. No?
        I’m not promoting the production of elephant burgers. But you need either a better argument or a different consequence for that argument.

        1. I’m not sure what point you are making. Chickens should not be slaughtered because some people derive some kind of pleasure from their death. Pigs should not be slaughtered because some people derive pleasure from their death. If you think that there is an ethical argument that supports “mass slaughter at the knives of humans” please let me know what it is.

  1. Very lucky! I would think that pulling the mother with narrow straps could severely injure it. But, the rescuers did an amazing job.

    1. It’s a genuine enough concern. Those “thin straps” are probably 50mm by 4mm (approximately ; they’re not made in that many different sizes), so they’ve got a safe working limit of about 4 tonnes each – which is in the right order of things for 4 lines on an elephant-size load. I’ve seen them before, being used for dragging bogged cattle out of mud pits in fields – which is also in the right sort of weight scale. (I checked : there’s a colour coding standard – red slings should be 5 tonne SWL. But in Africa new gear and used gear anywhere, you inspect and downrate appropriately.)
      But what are the alternatives to apply order-of(10 tonnes) of pull? Steel wire? You’d cheese-wire the animal apart. File that idea for different jobs. Chain? Would spread the load wider than wire for sure. But would probably leave dozens of cuts in the surface, and where the links met structural bone would produce lots of crush fractures at the contact points. The next gear in the rigging locker is “soft” slings – 25, 50 or 100mm nylon (or polyester) webbing. And they look to be using 50mm webbing, laid up into double- or quadruple-layer slings and strops. Which are standard items in the lifting industry – specify your length and they’ll be off the shelf and on their way to you by close of business.
      There is a fair amount of experience in the farming industry of getting mired animals out of the mud. 2in tape is the tool of experience. Yes, you do get skin damage sometimes. But you get a live beast at the end of the exercise more often than not. And you use the tools for other jobs too, so you want a multi-purpose product.
      You’ve missed (because it was not included in the video) the difficult part of the exercise : getting the lifting gear under the trapped mother. They could do that with 25mm slings (or even just a regular vehicle tow rope ; if even one of the vehicles had a small – several ton – winch, that’d be the tool of choice) to get lines under the beast, then pull the heavy slings through for the tow.
      There’s an odd loose line visible where they’re towing the beast out back-first … next time I see a farmer pulling a cow out of a mud pit, I’ll pay more attention to how he’s rigged his slings.

  2. I would be concerned of the unintended consequence that sedating the mother would stop her breathing, with mud pressing in all around but being unable to expand her ribcage.

    1. Mostly she’s laying on her side, with her legs out to one side. Not “buried to the shoulders” as the video is titled.
      Somehow, I don’t think that this crew (including the vet) is performing at their first rodeo.

  3. How did Mom get trapped in the first place?

    The still at the video link has a water surface in it in the background. Odds are good that this is at the margin of a water hole (possibly a river bank).
    There is a relevant property of clay-rich sediments (also extremely relevant to the water-rich “mud” that we use for drilling oil wells), whereby for certain clay chemistry, salts composition and concentration in the liquid phase, as well as temperature, the mixture viscosity varies with the shear rate you apply to the mixture. (footnote) Actually, in general viscosity varies with shear rate – but only one set of circumstances matters for this situation : when the viscosity of the mixture decreases as the shear rate increases.
    In this case, consider an antelope walking on the mud beside the waterhole, and compare it to an elephant. The antelope’s hoof imposes a shear stress on the mud which shears, to a very low rate. Consequently the viscosity of the mud decreases. Fortunately for the antelope, the decreased viscosity remains sufficient to support the weight of the antelope – at least for long enough for the lion to get it.
    The elephant’s foot on the other hand, imposes a greater initial stress on the mud, and causes a greater decrease in the mud’s viscosity. Which sometimes can be sufficient to allow the mud to continue shearing under the elephant’s weight, whereby the mud’s viscosity continues to decrease, the mud shears faster … and you have a lovely positive feedback loop forming an elephant trap which you can decorate with a topping of safely dancing antelopes.
    Similar processes occur in forming footprints. Geologists know this as the noble science of ichnology – the fossils of living organisms behaving (well, badly or indifferently) in contrast to the fossils of dead organisms, behaving decomposingly. Geomorphologists have to take it into account in studies of (say) slope stability as the rain soaks the hillside (wasn’t this an issue in California last week?), or as a volcano piles loose ash onto slopes of loose ash (searching my memory for such a recent lahar event … Pinatubo in 1991 unleashed a lot of lahar flows (with some fatalities, IIRC), but the lahar from Nevado de Ruiz that hit Armero in 1985 with 20-several kilo-fatalities (it made the geology news when I were nobbut an undergrad). Important things, lahars.
    Anyone here got relatives or property near Mt Rainier? Important things, lahars.
    footnote There’s also the complication of the change in shear rate with time. Let’s just leave that aside, because we try to work with steady states, and only dealt with time-dependent conditions when we absolutely had to. I spent several weeks in “absolutely had to” state on one “interesting times” well, to the tune of about 30 M$. It can be a real bugger to manage, successfully – meaning there was nothing for the press to report on.
    Rheology – the science of viscosity – is an interesting subject. Very important. And it has one of the best Descartes-like deathbed speeches in the mouth of a founder since … well, Descartes.

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