An elephant was spotted struggling in the ocean around 10 miles off Sri Lanka’s coast on Tuesday, leading to the Sri Lankan navy together with Department of Wildlife officials going to its rescue. The elephant was saved after 12 hours.

Elephant gets caught by the current and swept out to sea

According to Sri Lankan Navy officials, the elephant was caught by a current off the coast of north-eastern Sri Lanka near the town of Kokkilai and dragged out into the ocean. When a patrol boat spotted the struggling pachyderm, a rescue effort was launched by the Navy, along with Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife officials.

Chaminda Walakuluge, a spokesman for the Navy, said Wednesday that the elephant had a “miraculous escape” in the incident. Walakuluge explained that divers, with the help of wildlife officials, approached the elephant, tying ropes around it prior to gently towing the animal to shallower waters just off the coast, where the elephant was then released.

Elephant may have been taking a shortcut

Walakuluge explained the elephant had most likely been swept into the ocean while it was crossing the Kokkilai lagoon, a stretch of water between two jungle areas.

He explained that elephants usually wade across through the shallow waters and sometimes swim across in deeper waters if they want to take a short cut. He went on to stress that it was a “miraculous escape” for the pachyderm. Photos posted by the Sri Lankan Navy on their website and Video footage show the elephant attempting to keep its trunk above water during the rescue.

The Guardian quotes Avinash Krishnan of the conservation group A Rocha, as saying it is not really remarkable to find an elephant so far from land. Krishnan said the elephants are excellent swimmers and being that far from shore is not unusual. However, he did add that elephants cannot continue swimming for long as they burn a lot of energy, so the intervention by the Navy was probably necessary.

Krishnan also added that salt water is not good for the elephant's skin, so human intervention was probably warranted.

Elephant rescue comes shortly after 20 pilot whales were saved

As reported by the Straits Times, this latest elephant rescue comes six weeks after local residents and the Sri Lankan navy saved a pod of 20 pilot whales, stranded nearby in Trincomalee. The area is popular for whale watching and was used during World War II as a staging post by Allied forces. There is a high concentration of both blue and sperm whales in the area, while herds of wild elephants live in the surrounding jungles.