Rescued elephant returns to say thanks

Written by: Paul Steyn

Earlier this week a herd of five elephants arrived on the lawn in front of Baines’ River Camp. One of the young males had distinctive torn ears and we immediately identified him as an old friend.


It was a few years ago when we found this young guy not too far from Baines’, with a snare around his head cutting deep into his neck. It was an incredibly sad sight to see and we were a little unsure how to react to the situation. Do we take control by helping the animal, and run the risk of negatively impacting the herd or hurting the elephant further? Do we put the animal out of his misery? Or do we possibly leave the situation as is?

After some deliberation, camp owner Tim Featherby took the decision to fly in Doc Parsons, a local vet from Mazabuka, to assess the options. Having monitored the elephants for 24 hours, we caught up with the herd on an adjacent property not far from Baines’ River Camp.

This is when things got interesting.

The calf was part of a very protective breeding herd and the mother wanted nothing to do with us. With trumpets and aggressive displays of protection, she made it impossible for us to tranquilize the calf. In order to calm the situation, we had to sedate the mother first, hoping this would open up an opportunity to get to the calf. But then another protective female took on maternal duties and began to charge at us with such tenacity that we had to sedate her too.


On the third try we finally managed to dart the calf and were then able to cut off the snare, clean the wound and apply the antibiotic in the hope that it wasn’t too late. We administered the antidote to the three sedated animals and waited patiently to see what would happen. When the confused elephants came round, they immediately turned and came for us like angry giants on the loose. The final moments of the day had us high tailing out of the area with a bunch of crazed elephants hot on our heels.

Tim is ecstatic to see how well the young elephant is doing. “As the photographs show, human intervention really does make a huge difference, especially in cases such as this. By the look of things, it would appear that the female has since had a further calf and all have survived to tell the tale.”


Maybe this week’s visit was just the ele’s way of ‘stopping by’ to say thanks! It may be a cliché, but it’s also completely true: an elephant never forgets.

Baines' River Camp

Baines’ River Camp overlooks the mighty Zambezi River and Mana Pools World Heritage Site, offering elephant workshops, fly-fishing clinics, birding weeks and photographic workshops. Explore 4000 square kilometres of unfenced wilderness at Baines'.

  • Lexi Andrews

    Incredible story! Well done on saving this little once’s life.

  • Nikki Elliott

    Lovely story, and yes elephants never forget, and I believe they understand more than we will ever give them credit for!

    • Simon Espley

      Totally agree

  • Diane Anderson

    FABULOUS OF YOU ALL to have helped the little guy. Daphne Sheldrick’s book – An African Love Story – gives wonderful insight into the lives of elephants. There is so much we still don’t understand, but we do know they never never forget. A great happy story.

  • Greg Loftus

    great rescue evry one helped or saved is a great thing. impressive creatures

  • Tracy

    The team that did this…WONDERFUL !! 🙂 x

  • Jude Price

    good story – thank you for helping this little guy.

  • Viv Wouters

    Uplifting story with a lovely hollywood ending. Elephants never forget indeed, they ll be your friends forever.

  • Alex Brown

    That is the way humans should act…as stewards of this planet, stepping in when needed. Not going around killing animals for fun and calling it ‘sport’.

  • Jen Samuel

    Incredible! Bless all the elephants and what a happy story… Baines’ River Camp thanks for carrying about these precious creatures of intelligence and spirituality …

  • Mandy

    Just beautiful!!!! Ele’s NEVER forget and ALWAYS remember those important people that HELP and NOT hurt them…. Good Work and GREAT STORY!!!

  • Desree Turnbull

    Lovely story and thanks so much for making the right decision and saving this little guy’s life, so heartwarming. they are truly incredible animals. Brought happy tears to my eyes. What a special sightging for Tim Featherby to see “his” calf safe and happy and leading the life he was supposed to lead. Hopefully they will come back for another visit.

  • Lorraine

    What a great story and thank goodness they took the decision to help them

  • audiodoc

    thank you for saving a precious life. It is our duty, since we are the ones causing them pain and death

  • Christine

    Thank you so much for all you do for the beautiful elephants..

  • Lynda Corkum

    it’s good to read something heartwarming about elephants instead of the usual depressing statistics… kudos!

  • Natalie

    I believe that when a wild animal is in danger due to human intervention, it must be up to the humans to undo what was wronged. Well done for taking the correct action, warms my heart!

  • christine

    so nice well done guys

  • Justine

    I want to know why you have a photo of a bull elephant being darted?

    • rho

      they explain it in the story.

    • Hi Justine, The image of the bull elephant is from an unrelated rescue operation. Together with Doc Parsons and the Zambia Wildlife Authority, we managed to dart this bull on 29 April 2008. He came wandering through our camp riddled with bullets and the wounds on his chest and abdomen had turned into abscesses. Two of our staff members kept an eye on him for about 2 days until we received approval for the dart from the Zambia Wildlife Authority and we could get Doc Parsons to come out. We managed to clean the wounds and administer a massive dose of long-acting antibiotics before we sent him and his askari on their merry way. Our “English Patient” hung around the back of our camp for a good 2 weeks, which was great for monitoring his eating and digestive behaviour. His tusks were pretty distinctive and most likely the reason he was targeted with a rifle. The last time I saw him was probably 2 years ago, together with a few other bachelors on an island in the Zambezi, not far from Baines’ River Camp. Since then, he might have relocated to Zimbabwe and all we can hope for is that he is safe and sound!

  • Geurt Bloem

    Correct decision, as it was a human made restriction that caused the problem and therefor you had to do what you did! Love the fact that the ellies returned and you guys could witness the success of your efforts! Enjoy the ellies and keep up your intense effort to be responsible!!

  • Henriette Schalekamp-Roux

    What an incredible and touching story !
    Elephants – magnificent and highly intelligent souls indeed !
    Thanks so much for this wonderful story ! Blessings to those rescuers .

  • Lennart Hessel

    Great story and a big thank you to the camp for rescuing the little one…

  • Judith MacKay

    Wonderful story and great that you were able to help them. They are such wonderful animals with great understanding and I am sure they came by to say thank you.

  • ullricke van Zyl

    got tears in my eyes when I read the story,,,thank for helping the Ellie

  • Jenetta

    Wonderful. That is true, an elephant never forgets.

  • Deborah Butler

    Thank you for helping out one of God’s most beautiful creatures.

  • Baroness Danuté

    This story gave goos bumps it is so touchy I love elephants they are so smart they have very good brains, and they pass on to there next generation.

  • nancy joyce

    Elephants are such majestic beautiful animals and thank you to those who took the time, effort and expense to save that little calf. You are heroes to me and all of us that love these incredible animals! God bless you!

  • Susan Lignelli Behanna Potter

    Thank You for helping,

  • shirley

    Wow great work guys, truly a heart touching story and i am sure was very welcomed sight to see the little fellow again

  • macwoof

    thank you for your compassionate efforts . the world could use more kindhearted people like you.

  • Sue Winter, England

    What a wonderful story, as others have commented they never forget and probably after a lot of thought and rumblings they came back to say thank you. It must have been lovely for visitors to see them, lets hope they come back again.
    I think they are one of the most wonderful animals on earth and love to see stories like this one about them.

Jacis Lodges
AG Yearbook 2017
Africa Geographic