Most conservationists believe that man should not meddle with the natural order and that we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. We agree on the whole, unless a wildlife problem has been created by man (for instance in the case of snaring or being trapped in a fence, in which case it’s justifiable to intervene). Otherwise nature should be left to her own devices. For the most part…

Every rule has an exception, and this is the tale of just such an exception. In the Luanga Valley of Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris came across this remarkable sight of a mother and calf elephant getting horribly stuck in the mud, and Abraham Banda was on hand to capture the rescue process on film.

The Kapani Lagoon is a source of drinking water for the animals of the area, as well as the place to go for a relieving mud bath. Unfortunately though, a young calf was unlucky enough to get stuck in the mud when visiting the lagoon recently. The calf’s cries attracted her mother who rushed to her rescue, only to get stuck in the mud herself. The pair had been there for a day, exhausted and dehydrated, when the Safari group came across them.

The startled animal lovers simply could not stand by and watch them struggle and slowly die. The group contacted the South Luangwa Conservation Society, who agreed that the elephants should be rescued. The following pictures detail just how this amazing feat was achieved.

The herd inspects the mother and daughter.


The struggling left the mother and calf exhausted.


The skilled rescue team bravely slip a rope under the calf.


Slowly but surely, the team begin hauling the calf out.


The terrified calf tries desperately to stay with her mum.


Nearly there! The bulk of the calf is now out of the mud.


The newly freed calf is reluctant to leave mum’s side.


The team pull the calf further away from the mud.


The team unwrap the rope and let the calf on her way.


The calf rushes to rejoin the herd who call her from the banks.


Attention now shifts to the much bigger, much heavier mum.


The hard work is starting to show results as mum has two legs out.


The last stretch as the exhausted elephant struggles out.


Success! Mum rushes off to rejoin her herd.

t was extremely heartening for all to see how many local people joined in the efforts to free these two elephants. The cheers of joy, first when the baby ran to his cousin and then when Mum was finally released from the jaws of the sticky, cloying mud were wonderful! Everyone seemed to identify with the mum’s plight  – we all saw the incredible emotional bond between the worried herd members and mum and baby.

A big well done to the South Luangwa Conservation Society and also all the Norman Carr Safari staff who bravely fought to make this a happy ending!

Story by: Norman Carr Safaris

Images by: Abraham Banda