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Elephant rescue in Namibia

Original Source: TravelNewsNamibia.com

By Jana-Mari Smith

“Images of an elephant being rescued from a potentially fatal set of circumstances in Damaraland on Sunday 17 February have captured the hearts and minds of Namibians and animal lovers the world over. 



A few brave souls struggled for hours under the searing African sun to rescue an adult female elephant trapped for more than 11 hours in a drain at a campsite in the vicinity of the Burnt Mountain. 

“It was clear that she realised we were helping her,” said Archie van der Merwe, one of her rescuers, after the time. The elephant remained calm for most of her ordeal, patiently going along with the game plan devised to release her from her predicament.


Archie cools her off

Fears that the elephant would die from heat and stress spurred the Good Samaritans on, despite several obstacles, such as waiting for officials from Windhoek to arrive and come to her rescue.

When the Samaritans realised that the officials would not arrive in time, and that the elephant would have to be shot if she remained caught in the drain, they dug their heels in and began the long process to free her.

As told by Archie, a sea safari guide at Laramon Tours in Swakopmund, a herd of elephants had entered the White Lady Lodge at about midnight the previous night.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia

Digging to fill up the hole

Several campers reported the next day that they had heard a commotion around that time, but thought it had been caused by one of the donkeys roaming the area. The next morning, at around seven, an employee told Archie about the elephant trapped in the drain.

On inspection, it emerged that she had stepped onto a drain cover, which had broken under her weight. Her body was stuck solidly in the 1.6-metre hole and she could barely move. By that time she had already been trapped for seven hours.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia

First step to freedom

Despite nature conservation personnel saying they were unable to help until assistance from Windhoek arrived, Archie and other campers from South Africa and Namibia decided to take action immediately, knowing full well that on a Sunday the likelihood of help arriving in time was slim.

Their plan was to gradually fill the pit with sand and stones, 20 centimetres at a time, to enable the elephant to manoeuvre herself step by step onto higher ground.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia

A little bit weak

Once she had eased her large body onto the higher elevation and had calmed down, they would add the next layer of sand and rocks. Every few minutes, someone would carefully hose water over the pachyderm, to ensure that she remained hydrated. In view of the searing heat, the stressed animal was most certainly kept alive by these thoughtful actions.

And so they continued patiently under the blazing son for the next three hours, the distressed elephant only centimetres away from them. Eventually, when she was standing about 70 centimetres deep, she was able to heave her tired body completely out of the drain that had become her living hell.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia

Just a litte rest – which lasted an hour

Archie said she was clearly exhausted and deeply stressed by the circumstances. At one point, with two legs out of the hole, she sat down and rested for an hour. Her rescuers remained close to her, dousing her with water every now and then.

Then, a mere two steps later, she was free!

A member of the Elephant Humans Relations Aid (EHRA) organisation, Wayne, who had also assisted with the rescue operation, later told Archie that the herd had remained in the vicinity.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia

Almost there

They saw her standing on her toes – an elephant ‘smoke signal’ – to let her family know she was fine. These foot-induced ‘smoke signals’ can be heard up to 10 kilometres away.

Elephant Rescue in Namibia


In the afternoon, before Archie and his family returned to their home in Swakopmund, they took a last photograph of Ollie standing peacefully in the nearby bush, grazing as if her ordeal had never happened.” – Travel News Namibia

Elephant Rescue in Namibia


Africa Geographic Editorial

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  • god bless you guys.

  • What great work. Remarkable. Thank you for caring !!

  • christina

    Amazing 🙂

  • Well done guys. You show that you care

  • Mrs Hema Desai

    Well done guys..you are heros and will be blessed by God in due course…

  • Jennie Harborth

    Wonderful! Thank you for helping this great animal.

  • oldSouthWester

    Well done! Now cover up that hole so it doesn’t happen again.

  • Nikki


  • WELL DONE!!!!

  • Elizabeth Dallmann


  • Rebecca


  • Derrick

    Well done.

  • Wonderful effort – congratulations to all involved.

  • well done, very heartning story, not only brave but strong tummies, the smell of the sespit couldn’t have been too pleasant either, I salute you all!

  • That`s fantastic. You are heros.

  • Pamela Smith

    This was fasinating to see! I think you are angels caring, thank you for your kind and quick actions to save her.

  • Thank you guys for helping an animal in distress!

  • Lisa Kondor

    To all of you who assisted in this wonderful though difficult rescue…..many, many thanks. You deserve medals.

  • David Winston-Smith

    This was a great effort on the part of all involved. What a pity that some of the local population felt ‘deprived’ because they were ready with their knives to carve up the elephant meat!

  • Betty Betty

    Thank you for the pictures. I read the news in German, on the AZ of Windhoek, two weeks ago.

  • Ollie’s friend

    Simply wonderful story…. Thank you for saving her…….. She is precious……

    • Deon Combrink

      Good work guys !!

  • William Healley

    Thanks heavens for you guys. Chinese and Vietnamese would have let her die just for the ivory.

  • Thank goodness for people who care. Great work guys!

  • great work. The elephant was too tired to care about them being attackers…. Here in Kenya we have many orphaned ele babies which fell into drains, man holes and village wells and abandoned by their mothers..The orphans are taken care of by the Daphne Sheldrick elephant orphanage in Nairobi and they are wonderful to watch.

  • Cindy Wines

    How wonderful. Thank you for helping her rather than just shooting her. Elephants are so special and so smart and I am glad the herd was waiting for her too. Thank you to all of you!!!

  • Anverali merali

    Thank You. May God Bless you all.

  • waaowwwwwwwwww well done. http://www.gorillatreking.com

  • Thank you for the great work done

  • Jane

    I heard from friend in Nam that she was subsequently killed by the rest of the group. Does anyone have any clarity on this?

    • Steve Swann

      Yes. I’m afraid that is true. She (the elephant is locally identified as “Olive”) was found dead from tusking injuries. A very sad end to what was a heartwarming story.

    • Patricia Caldeira

      A friend in Namibia has just confirmed it to me. Apparently for no reason the rest of the herd killed her. Could it have happened because she had a different smell after the contact with humans, perhaps???

  • Nick Jones

    Many, many thanks for your supreme efforts in saving this beautiful creature.

  • Di Martin

    Thank you for sharing that happy ending. So many sad wildlife stories around!

  • Very cool.

  • tameswazi

    Amazing & Beautiful to read! It just shows that you don’t have to be an expert to make a difference ;o)

  • Jane

    A friend from Nam told me that the ele had subsequently died. Killed by the rest of the group. Any clarification in that regard?

  • Beautiful story…. Very well done 🙂

  • How nice to hear, that elephants will be rescude in Namibia, for there still People can
    bay jewels from elephant tusks in the stores!

  • amazing work to save the elephant… shows that humanity is still alive and kicking out there somewhere… the efforts of the godly people brought a tear to the eye knowing well that at the same time somewhere is trying their level best to hurt some animal…

  • Joseph F. Chabot

    You all will go to heaven

  • Susan Johnson

    Wonderful Rescue !!!

  • Juhi

    well done. God will bless you

  • A_Makena


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