For members of the Sri Lankan navy, a routine morning patrol took an unexpected turn on Tuesday when an elephant was spotted struggling to stay afloat after having been pulled miles off the coast by currents.
When naval personnel said it spotted the elephant eight miles from the shore, the animal was struggling to keep just its trunk above the waves while the rest of its body was underwater. Navy divers then tied ropes to the elephant and called for two additional boats to help gently pull it back to shore in what became a 12-hour rescue mission.
It is not unusual for elephants to swim long distances, Avinash Krishnan, a researcher for the Indian animal conservation group A Rocha, told the Guardian, but they tire quickly.
“And the saltwater isn’t good for their skin, so in this case, the situation probably warranted human intervention,” Krishnan said.
After the “dramatic rescue at sea,” as described by the Sri Lankan navy on its website, naval personnel gave the elephant to wildlife officials before releasing it back into the wild.
“They usually wade through shallow waters or even swim across to take a shortcut,” said Sri Lankan navy spokesperson Chaminda Walakuluge. “It is a miraculous escape for the elephant.”
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