AN elephant was saved from drowning after being swept out 10 miles to sea in a dramatic Navy rescue.
The biggest land mammal was caught in strong currents and dragged out to dangerous waters after trying to cross the coast line in Sri Lanka.
Navy personnel rushed to the scene when the elephant was spotted from a patrol boat.
Department of Wildlife officials joined the emergency rescue effort, which took a gruelling 12 hours to try and drag the elephant back to shore.
Divers, aided by wildlife experts, tied ropes to the exhausted animal before gently towing it back to the shore.
It was released in shallow waters.
Avinash Krishnan, a research officer with the conservation group A Rocha, said the rescue saved the elephant’s life.
He said: “They’re very good swimmers.
“Swimming about 15km from the shore is not unusual for an elephant.
“But they can’t keep swimming for long because they burn a lot of energy.
“And the salt water isn’t good for their skin, so in this case, the situation probably warranted human intervention.”
Swimming pachyderms are no new phenomenon, with Asian elephants regularly crossing the small landmasses in the Andaman Islands, an Indian archipelago.
Chaminda Walakuluge, a navy spokesman, said the elephant had probably been swept away by the current while trying to cross the Kokkilai lagoon, a vast expanse of water between two jungles.
He said: “They usually wade through shallow waters or even swim across to take a shortcut.
“It is a miraculous escape for the elephant.”
The several-tonne creature is related to the manatees and dugong, both sea-dwellers.
And it uses its trunk as a snorkel, with its lungs specially designed to withstand variations in water pressure.
The Navy issued a statement saying: ”A group of officials from the Department of Wildlife also joined this humongous task providing necessary instruction which became extremely vital in the rescue mission.
“Accordingly, they were able to carefully direct the elephant towards the coast from the deep sea, by means of ropes.
“Having safely guided the elephant to the Yan Oya area in Pulmodai, the animal was handed over to the wildlife officials for onward action.”