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.