During the Vietnam War a U.S bomb left a crater and earlier this week, the crater nearly claimed the lives of a whole family of elephants.

Recently, after the crater had been empty for many years, it was being used by local farmers to store water in as it lies in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

But just a few days ago farmers discovered a family of 11 elephants stuck in the crater as it had become full with dense, sticky mud.

ELIE

The farmers acted fast and contacted the local Department of Environment about the family that were stranded.

Soon after, rescuers from Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE) run by the Elephant Valley Project arrived. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) also came to help the family climb out of the mud pit.

It was clear that they were exhausted.

The three adult elephants and their eight children were offered food in a bid to help them feel more safe and to help them regain some of the energy they had lost due to their struggle.

ELIE

“They were so hungry, they munched it down and it gave them some energy,” Jemma Bullock, program manager for ELIE, said.

Rescuers brought a hose over to the crater to loosen the thick mud and make it easier for the animals to move their limbs. The extra water also helped the elephants cool down – they had been stuck in the crater in the hot midday sun.

People also began to dig ramps into the pit so the elephants would be able to climb out safely.

First out was the leader of the herd, the mother. She steadily moved towards the exit and began to climb.

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Locals gathered and began to cheer for the family as the first few elephants clambered out and made a bit for freedom in the woods.

However things weren’t over yet.

Storm clouds began to gather overhead but one of the babies was still stuck.

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The calf’s legs weren’t big or strong enough to let her climb up the ramp by herself.

The rain began to fall so the rescue team tried to wrap a rope around the baby to try and help boost her out of the pit.

She was so tired and scared that the rescuers tried to pry her out by using sugarcane and bananas.

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After a lot of strength and might – the baby also ran free!

“If the community had not got together with the WCS, ELIE and the Department of Environment to rescue these 11 Asian elephants, this would have been a tragedy,” Tan Setha, WCS technical advisor to the area, said. “This herd consisted of three adult females and eight juveniles of various ages, including a male that had almost reached maturity. These elephants represent an important part of the breeding population in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, and their loss would have been a major blow for conservation.”

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Due to the loss of their habitats there are only around 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, so every life matters – each herd holds the key to the survival of the species.

“[The rescue] highlights unfortunately the ugly side of deforestation and the effect on wild animals,” Bullock explained, “but also the resilience of the community.”

“This is a great example of everyone working together in Cambodia to save wildlife,” Ross Sinclair, WCS country director, added. “Too often the stories around conservation are about conflict and failure, but this is one about cooperation and success.”