DHAKA: An elephant thought to have travelled 1,000 kilometres from India into Bangladesh after becoming separated from its herd by floods was stopped in its tracks Thursday in a dramatic rescue that nearly ended in disaster.
The distressed female ran amok after it was hit by a tranquilliser dart and charged into a pond, where it was only saved from drowning with the help of local villagers who jumped in to keep it from toppling into the water, according to a local vet.
"Hundreds of villagers came to its rescue when they saw the elephant had lost consciousness," Sayed Hossain told AFP from the scene.
"Dozens jumped into the pond and helped us tie the animal with ropes and chains. And finally, with the help of hundreds of villagers, we were able to pull it to dry ground."
Severe floods in the northeastern Indian state of Assam separated the four-ton elephant from its herd in the north of India´s Assam state and it was washed across the border in late June.
Conservationist Ashit Ranjan Paul told AFP it had likely travelled around 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) before it even reached Bangladesh, where it has been for the past six weeks.
A team of Bangladeshi forest officials have been following the exhausted elephant and now hope to take it to a safari park where it can be looked after.
That, however, will be no easy task.
"Since there is no paved road nearby, we´ll keep the animal here and give it medicines and food," said Tapan Kumar Dey, who is part of the team.
"Once it regains strength, we´ll use mahouts (elephant handlers) and a domesticated elephant to lead it to a paved road from where it´ll be transported to a safari park."
Three Indian wildlife officials travelled to Bangladesh earlier this month to try to help the elephant, but their trip was unsuccessful.
"It is so weak that it can´t even lift its trunk. You can see her ribs from a distance," Ritesh Bhattacharjee, one of the three officials, told AFP at the time.