Eleven endangered wild elephants, including a baby, were rescued from a bomb-crater-turned-mud-pit in the eastern province of Mondulkiri on Saturday after being stuck for four days.
Keo Sopheak, the director of the provincial environmental office, told Khmer Times yesterday that the elephants fell into the three-meter deep, mud-filled pond, which was created by a bomb dropped by the US during the Vietnam War.
He said authorities, in collaboration with the local community, spent five hours trying to rescue the elephants by digging down the sides of the pit in order to give the animals an escape route.
In addition to throwing small trees into the muddy water to give them more ground to stand on, the rescue team hosed them with fresh water and threw them bamboo leaves to help restore their energy.
“Local people who collect tree products in the forest found them and immediately informed us.
“All of the elephants could have died from a lack of food and water if they weren’t rescued in time,” Mr. Sopheak said, adding that the baby elephant, which was unable to climb out on its own, had to be hauled out with a rope.
According to Mr. Sopheak, the elephants did not come to the pit to drink water as there was a canal about 100 meters away. He thinks the baby may have accidentally fallen in and the others became stuck in successive failed rescue attempts.
He said an estimated 250 elephants remain in the area, with the old bomb crater being about four or five kilometers from O’am village in Keo Seima district.
Video footage seen on the Environment Ministry’s Facebook page shows the elephants stuck in the pit with rescuers hosing them with water. The elephants eventually start climbing out up the muddy embankment one by one and run off into the deforested jungle.
The video cuts off as the baby elephant is left stranded in the mud, only to be later rescued with further assistance from authorities and the local community.
Wildlife Alliance official Botumroat Lebun said the elephants had come to find water as local deforestation had led to a water shortage, adding that if they had not been found, the elephants would have died.
“It is very hot as they have cleared the forest to plant cassava,” she said.
Environment Minister Say Samal expressed gratitude yesterday on the ministry’s official Facebook page to everyone involved in the successful elephant rescue.
“I would like to appeal to all stakeholders to be more active in the campaign to protect and conserve natural resources, especially forestry and wildlife,” he said.