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A southern Indian forest guard has quickly become a hero for animal lovers after he saved the life of a baby elephant which had fallen in a ditch.
Palanichamy Sarathkumar, 28, carried the elephant to safety after it became separated from its mother, despite the 100kg (220lb) calf weighing more than he does.
The forest guard has since received massive praise for the rescue, which the BBC reports took place in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The baby elephant has now been reunited with its mother.
"It was very heavy. I just lifted on the spur on the moment," Palanichamy told the BBC. "After the video of me lifting the calf was shown on local TV channels and social media, many called to congratulate me."
"Everyone in my village is now asking me the same question: 'How did you lift an elephant?'
"I was scared of losing my balance. But my friends stepped in and restrained the calf a bit and helped me to carry the animal."
Credit: Forest Department
The rescue took place on 12 December this year when Palanichamy received a call telling him that a female elephant was blocking the road near the Vanabhadra Kaliamman temple in Mettupalayam.
Palanichamy, who works as part of a local Anti-Poaching Squad tackling human-elephant conflict in the region, quickly cancelled his trip home after his night shift to investigate.
He and his colleagues drove the elephant back into the jungle using firecrackers before searching the area for other elephants and finding the calf.
"We saw this calf stuck inside a small ditch," he said. "It was tired and confused so we moved a big boulder that was blocking its way and brought it out."
Realising that the female's distress was due to the calf, which was unhurt but too weak to walk, the team set about trying to reunite the pair.
"Initially four of us carried the calf," Palanichamy said. "We wanted to take it to the other side of the road to reunite it with its mother. But there was a danger of [us] being attacked as she was still nearby.
"So, instead of all four of us being put at risk, I decided to carry the calf by myself across the road."
Credit: Forest Department
Palanichamy carried the baby elephant for about 50 metres before putting it down near a water hole, hoping the mother would find it. Must have been some effort, that.
The team waited for hours for the female to return before leaving the calf, sensing that its mother was still anxious because they were nearby. The calf is now believed to be back in the forest with its mum.
"Next day when I went there, the calf wasn't there, but I could see the pugmarks of a big elephant on the forest floor," Palanichamy said.
"It seems they were reunited before dawn and slipped away into the forest."
Officials said that the calf would have likely died if Palanichamy hadn't got involved, so credit to him and his team. Hope that his back's feeling alright.
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