Amateur videos: Emotional baby elephant rescue clip looks to be a winner

2011-11-22 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — An astonishing video of a baby elephant being rescued by herd-mates from a mudhole in the Addo elephant park could make the couple who filmed it famous.

André and Mignonne van Heerden of Port Elizabeth said watching the drama unfold was the most emotional experience they’ve had in 30 years of wildlife viewing.

“At times I had to restrain myself from jumping out of the car and going to help,” said Mignon-ne, “but in the end when he was back on solid ground we just wept. And when I looked round, that’s what people in the other cars were also doing.”

The video, which was filmed a year ago and is already an Internet sensation, is in the finals tonight of kykNet programme Kwêla’s amateur video competition.

She said on the day of the drama, in October 2010, most of the waterholes in the park were dried up and elephants were drinking from cement troughs placed nearby.

At the Harpoor waterhole, the adult elephants skirted the waterhole to reach the trough, but the calf walked straight across the mud. The dry surface gave way under its weight and it fell up to its belly in sticky grey mud.

The animal struggled to free itself, only getting deeper into the mud.

The mother and the rest of the group tried to help by spreading dry sand on the mud and trampling the steep walls of the hole to make them more sloping — all the while comforting the baby with their trunks on its head.

But it seemed all their efforts were in vain and the animal disappeared into the hole, only to lift its head out again and lie exhausted.

“Eventually, the matriarch came up with the winning plan,” said Mignonne. “She made the rest of the group stand to one side and appeared to instruct the mother how to help her baby out.

“The little guy was shaky on its legs and immediately tried to suckle. They rested a while and then walked off.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in sight!” she said.

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