Elephant lost at sea gets helping hand in 12-hour rescue

An elephant apparently attempting to cross the Kokkilai Lagoon in Sri Lanka to get from one jungle to another was swept out to sea where it was discovered by the Sri Lankan navy.

The elephant was found five miles off the island’s northeast coast struggling to stay afloat, using its trunk as a snorkel, according to Agence France-Presse and National Geographic, which posted video of the rescue:

Navy divers managed to fasten ropes around the elephant and gently tow it back to shore where it was released in a rescue effort that spanned 12 hours.

The lagoon is located in the middle of an animal sanctuary.

“They usually wade through shallow waters or even swim across to take a shortcut,” Chaminda Walakuluge of the navy told AFP. “It is a miraculous escape for the elephant.”

Joyce Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices, told NatGeo that “elephants are considered the best swimmers of any land mammal—perhaps excluding trained human swimmers.”

But the elephant in this video appeared to be tired, Poole said. Even strong swimmers eventually tire without rest.

“Navy officials intervened, claiming the swimming would have caused the elephant to burn too much energy to survive and that the prolonged exposure to saltwater could have damaged the elephant’s skin,” NatGeo wrote.

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