Rescued elephant 'thanks' rangers

2012-03-13 10:33

Mahikeng - An elephant calf lifted his little trunk in an apparent gesture of trust and pressed it against each of the three rangers who saved him from drowning on Saturday.

Yolandi Sutherland, 25, a game ranger at Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West, described on Monday how maternal instinct drove her to jump into the river to save the little elephant.

On Saturday morning, a worker informed her that the calf was drowning. When Sutherland reached the river, the calf’s trunk and face were under water. “His little trunk came out every now and then.”

The calf’s anxious mother stood on the other side of the river.


Sutherland jumped into the river. “The little elephant was entangled in branches. I called out to his mother; ‘Old girl, it’s okay, I will look after your baby.”

Sutherland lifted the calf, who weighed at least 125kg, up from the branches and swam with him to the shore. “He couldn’t come up the bank, swam back and got stuck in the branches again.”

His mother had meanwhile disappeared.

Another ranger, Francois Kroon, came to help.

“I pushed my body underneath the calf so that Francois could push him forward,” said Sutherland. “At the shore the little elephant slipped in the mud and got stuck in a log. I freed him.”

A third ranger, Paul Slyer, meanwhile brought some rope, which was how the three finally managed to get the calf out.

“He was too weak to walk over the branches back into the bush,” said Sutherland.


“We stood around him in a triangle. When he got his breath back, he walked over to me and lifted his little trunk. I bent over to him and held my hand in front of my face. He pressed his little trunk in my hand.”

The elephant calf also walked over to Kroon and Slyer and pressed his trunk against them. “I slapped my thigh and said: ‘Come, boy’ and walked into the bush. He followed me.’”

Sutherland called out “Old girl!” and then the calf also started calling for his mother.

  • Jacqui - 2012-03-13 10:40

    I wonder why the mother didnt try to save her baby?? Elephants swim really well?? Maybe she had tried and given up?? Wish we knew more of this happy story...

      Giancarlo - 2012-03-13 18:23

      Might have been a test mother nature wanted to see if Humans still cared about nature. Every time I read this it brings a tear to my eye.

  • Citizen - 2012-03-13 10:40

    Its why rangers do what they do...for those special moments that make all the other heartbreak worth it..Good stuff thanks for the positive (underlined here)news for the day

      JohhnyBGood - 2012-03-13 11:04

      A really nice story! Yay!!!!

      Selma - 2012-03-13 12:26

      I needed that after the disgusting footage of the rhino on Freek Robinson's programme on Kyknet on Sunday. Most of the time I am ashamed of the human race.

  • Gareth - 2012-03-13 10:45

    AND???? Did the mother take him back? COME ON?! Where's the rest of the story man!

      dirk.smit1 - 2012-03-13 11:10

      Stay tuned, tomorrow we will continue with the rest of the story. It is like they only tell half the story right, like a series coming to an end and leaving the most important portion to the next season.

      Gareth - 2012-03-13 11:35

      6 thumbs down? MUST BE POACHERS! BLoody Agents!

  • Marion - 2012-03-13 10:46

    Feel-good story for today. Just like the feel-good story about the 30 dolphins that were saved. And the feel-good story about the two herds of elephant who recently went to say farewell to the 'elephant whisperer'. We need more stories on News24 that make us feel good.

      Suzanne - 2012-03-13 11:09

      I missed the one of the Elephant Whisperer. Can you remember the caption? Please let me know. Thank you.

      Marion - 2012-03-13 11:27

      Marion - 2012-03-13 11:34

      Wonderful video of the rescue at this link :

      Marion - 2012-03-13 12:02

      I think I must be drunk... posted a dolphin video link on an elephant story. :-( But enjoy it anyway if you haven't already seen it.

      Sam - 2012-03-13 13:09

      They're both grey, Marion - hardly any difference really ;-)

  • Ben - 2012-03-13 10:48

    This makes my day. Precious.

  • cheyna.stewart - 2012-03-13 10:58

    beautiful story, brought tears to my eyes.

      Jeanette - 2012-03-13 11:28

      me too

      Anthony - 2012-03-13 11:32

      Me three

      Erna - 2012-03-13 21:28

      Me four

  • Nickey - 2012-03-13 10:58

    Brilliant. Wish I was there !!

  • Antipoaching - 2012-03-13 10:58

    Update from Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape on the condition of the 2 rhino who survived poachers. Heartwarming yet gut-wrenching. The dedication of the Kariega rangers and Dr Fowlds (vet)is astounding: please go to their Facebook page

  • Thozi - 2012-03-13 11:07

    The grateful little elephant for Chief Ranger when he/she becomes an adult!

  • Silvana - 2012-03-13 11:12

    What a beautiful story. I actually have tears in my eyes. I assume from the last sentence that mother and child were reunited.

  • Deon - 2012-03-13 11:15

    High 5's all around.

  • charles.wolfaardt1 - 2012-03-13 11:24

    It is a wonderful world we live in. Why can't humans o the same. Stick your hand out for friendship

  • Tonya - 2012-03-13 11:32

    Wonderful!!!!!! Well done guys!

  • mmondli - 2012-03-13 11:43

    And then 15 years later the ranger walked up to a grown up elephant and held out his has, the elephant reached for his hand with its trunk and started crushing the man to death, it probably wasn't the same elephant.

      Thozi - 2012-03-13 14:56

      Mmondi please don't spoil it, try to be positive sometimes... Join the optimists.

      Tasmee - 2012-03-13 19:22

      I know this joke...funny ;) Elephants are so intelligent, I am so pleased that the end was a happy one. It breaks my heart that our environment and animals suffer so much!

  • tammyrohloff1 - 2012-03-13 11:57

    so heartwarming

  • Shirley - 2012-03-13 12:09

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that deed of kindness! Just a pity that there are not more like you! Heartwarming and wonderful!

  • William - 2012-03-13 12:12

    The road is looooooooooong................... With maaaaaaaaaaaany a wiiiiiiiiiinding road....... He ain't heavy.................He's my Brother!!!!!!!

  • patrickflynn73 - 2012-03-13 12:12

    I've filmed at the Madikwe Lodge before and I am not surprised at their great work. They are the most warm and friendly caring staff anyone could ever wish for when visiting a game lodge. Truelly dedicated and committed to their passion! Well done team!

  • Warren Cowley - 2012-03-13 12:13

    What a nice warm story. Could be in a childrens book as a short story. :-)

  • Annette Jacobs - 2012-03-13 12:20

    bravo! dankie vir al jul harde werk om God se skepping te probeer bewaar teen al die boosheid.

  • Grace - 2012-03-13 12:33

    Good stuff !

  • vivisu100 - 2012-03-13 12:49

    Heart warming stories,thanks that kindness from human still left from good turning bad nowadays society!

  • Mandy - 2012-03-13 13:04

    wonderful story of human - animal connection well done for your courage and care very moved Mandy Young, EcoPsychologist;

  • paul.slyer - 2012-03-13 13:05

    Thanks everyone for the comments on this story they are really positive. Being a guide at Madikwe under normal circumstances we should have let nature take its course and left the baby elephant alone. Even though it is very hard to watch, (you cant go around saving every impala from being eaten by lions if you know what I mean), but due to the river having a man made weir it had changed the depth of the river from around 1 meter to 3 meters with high banks on each side. This is why the baby elephant must have fallen in and why the mother could not save her. We managed to lift the baby elephant out of the river which weighed about 120kg's and walked her towards her mother who was now about 100m's away. Once she saw the baby and us she came running in a flat out charge towards us. We ran back to the safety of the river leaving the baby behind. They greeted each other and the baby left her mother. It was an amazing experience for me which I will remember for the rest of my life.

      Saffa - 2012-03-13 13:32

      Ok dude, you and your fellow rangers are OFFICIALLY rock stars!!!!! May you all enjoy the richest blessings this earth has to offer for this act of kindness. I salute you! (And I wipe away a few tears). Please do me ONE favour though - should a poacher or 2 or 3 end up in such a predicament - leave them to drown.

      ntombiya - 2012-03-13 14:10

      I dont think this baby will ever forget you guys ! Well done !

      looneylani - 2012-03-13 14:39

      Beautiful story to tell for life! I am glad there are people out there that are so selfless! Lot of love to you guys!

      John - 2012-03-13 15:49

      Paul mentions them jumping back into the "safety of the river". Safety is a relative word in this case. To have stayed on the bank they would have suffered death or injury from the distraught elephant's mother compared to possible death or injury from crocodiles in the crocodile inhabited river. But well done, Yolandi,Francois and Paul.

      Shirley - 2012-03-13 18:26

      You have one of the hardest yet awesome jobs in the world! It takes special people to do special jobs for special creatures. Thanks for caring for these giants and all the other creatures. Its our planets only hope!

      kobus.porter - 2012-03-14 13:21

      Thanks to you and Francois for helping Yolandi. It is a surprise to see how many people read this article and the comments thereon. I think Yolandi will comment on your remarks. As I know her she did what she did instinctively and without hesitation. That is her personality. She would not let an elephant baby die for nothing under the circumstances that she found it. She and one worker were there on their own with no help. She is a woman and they think different from men. If anybody wants to criticise, let them work with the reasonable woman guide doctrine under the circumstances that she found the baby. John.Sutherland

  • Kate - 2012-03-13 13:24

    ok so now I am blubbing!

  • Jacomi - 2012-03-13 13:30

    Ag moeder, ek huil my dood - pragtige oomblik!

  • roberta.keeling - 2012-03-13 13:41

    That story brings a tear to your eye. These are genuine ranger with love of animals, not ike those two so called "farmers" that wanted to poach rhino for personal gain. There is still good in the world!

  • ntombiya - 2012-03-13 14:08

    Well done Guys, this baby will never forget you all !

  • les.cunningham1 - 2012-03-13 14:08

    What a story!! Wish I could have been there to see it.

  • Dyl - 2012-03-13 14:19

    Good to see a feel good story for a change :) no kony, no malema, no jub jub, no other person telling the story the way they think it should be read...just a real story. Nice.

  • looneylani - 2012-03-13 14:37

    Love this story!

  • Brigitte - 2012-03-13 15:37

    I cannot describe the feeling when an animal does this kind of thing to you! I once helped a terrified horse back into its paddock. It walked over to me, put its head down into my chest, snorted and then looked me straight in the eyes, and went back into her paddock. I stood and howled.

  • lyn.duplessis - 2012-03-13 16:10

    This is such a heart warming tale of love. Thank you to the rangers for saving this little one's life - I am sure the Mom is very happy too x

  • petrakzn - 2012-03-13 17:07

    Now THAT is news and a priceless experience. Well done!!!!!!!!

  • Sheila - 2012-03-14 07:09

    What a wonderful story. Photos would have been nice but obviously they had more important things on their minds.

  • Marc - 2012-03-14 09:26

    Stunning story, warmed my heart this morning!

  • bieneke.baas - 2012-03-14 10:28

    well done rangers, beautiful story

  • Lynda - 2012-03-14 11:04

    Ah man just what I needed this morning to make me like people again....well some of the people

  • Bradley Leighton - 2012-03-14 13:44

    Well done to you Yolandi and you guys too. Cool story with a very cool ending!

  • Ilze Pauw - 2012-03-15 13:27

    What an amazing story wow gives me goosebumps. My love for elephants is infectious and I'm proud for your bravery to have rescued the calf. Well done guys :)

  • Shelly Topham - 2013-10-28 16:19

    What a lovely story. This really warms my heart. Congratulation and well done to all the rangers involved.

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