Sri Lanka Navy Saves Elephant Swept Out to Sea

During their routine patrols off the coast of Sri Lanka, crew members have probably seen a lot of marine life. But there was nothing routine about what they saw July 11. A wild Asian elephant was swimming almost 10 miles off the shore of Kokilai, on the northeast side of the country.

What was an elephant doing way out there? It had probably become caught in a riptide current while crossing a lagoonbetween two islands, and was swept out to sea.

“They usually wade through shallow waters or even swim across take a shortcut,” said Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Chaminda Walakuluge.

Now the poor pachyderm was drowning, struggling against the current and trying to keep its trunk out of the water in an effortto breathe.

The crew aboard the patrol boat called the Sri Lanka Navy for help. Soon three boats carrying Navy divers and Department of Wildlife officials arrived on the scene.

The rescue mission took 12 hours. As the rescuers soothed the elephant, they were able to loop tow ropes around its body and gently guide it back to shore.

Like so many other amazing rescues nowadays, this effort was captured on video.

The elephant was released by wildlife officials into the jungle in Yan Oya, about seven miles south of Kokilai. It has reportedly recovered well from its scary ordeal.

You might not think elephants would be good swimmers, but that’s actually far from the case. In calmer bodies of water, they are naturally buoyant and can easily breathe by using their trunks as natural snorkels. “Of all the animals in the world to be stranded out in the ocean, few are more prepared to survive than an elephant,” according to the Washington Post.

With the exception of trained human swimmers, elephants are the best swimmers of any land mammal, Elephant Voices conservation group co-founder Joyce Poole told the Washington Post.

There are only 2,500 to 4,000 Asian elephants remaining in Sri Lanka. The population has dropped by 65 percent since the early 19th century, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They used to be found all over Sri Lanka, but because of the deforestation that has taken away their ancient migratory routes, they now live in much smaller areas.

This wasn’t the first time the Sri Lanka Navy rescued an animal in distress. Just six weeks ago, the Navy and local residents saved a pod of 20 sperm whales that had become stranded in a harbor. “It was a delicate task to push the whales back without hurting them, but there was a happy ending when all of them could be sent back to deeper waters,” Walakuluge said at the time.

While the population of Asian elephants in Sri Lanka is sadly declining, thanks to the heroic efforts of those Navy divers, one life has been spared. As the Washington Post noted, killing an elephant in Sri Lanka is punishable by death. On the other hand, saving the life of one, as these heroes did, should be justly rewarded.

Photo credit: DEZALB

169 comments

ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R4 months ago

Thank You, Sri Lanka Navy :))

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

Sri Lanka Navy - THANK YOU

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Laura R
Laura R4 months ago

Thank you for the wonderful rescue!

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James Tillotson
James Tillotson4 months ago

So glad wow what a great story I'm so glad they were able to rescue the sweet thing

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José Rafael Cuerva Nunes

Let us thank the Sri Lanka Navy for their excellent work to save the life of the elephant.

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Marija M
Marija M4 months ago

Happy, happy. Tks for sharing.

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Toni W
Toni W4 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W4 months ago

Wonderful rescue here -

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Suzanne L
Suzanne L4 months ago

Elephants are great swimmers but she was very far out and looked tired. The Sri Lanka Navy are to be commended for what seemed a very challenging rescue.

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Alexis M
Alexis Miller4 months ago

Great news!

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