|Safari guides battled for days to save an elephant stuck in mud|
They undertook a complex rescue task to save the young elephant that found itself stuck in mud for four days.
One of the guides even spent six hours in the thick mud trying to free the bull elephant.
But, despite the valiant efforts the struggle proved too much and the guides were forced to put down the animal.
The young elephant had become trapped up to his neck in the mud in a Zimbabwe safari park.
The elephant spent four agonising days in the mud and was forced to use its trunk as a snorkel.
|The elephant had spent four days in the heat of the African sun|
The safari guides rushed to the poor animal's aid and risked their own lives in a desperate battle to free the majestic beast.
Tourists also volunteered and even a tractor was deployed to save the animal.
Len Taylor, 40, a guide at the Gache Gache Lodge, climbed into the mud with the elephant in order to tie a rope around the animal's belly.
Mr Taylor said: "Even though he was quite young, he was certainly big enough to kill us.
"He was extremely distressed and fearful, he was making a lot of noise and was smacking his trunk about - I got hit a few times.
"I did manage to avoid the tusks, because if you get hit by one of those it would break your leg easily.
"The biggest problem was to try and get the rope around his belly - the mud was so thick, we just couldn’t get through it with the ropes.
"In the end, I worked out a way of getting the rope around his neck so he could be pulled out without being strangled.
"Once it looked like we could get him out, my biggest fear was that he would try and kill us once he was free.
"Elephants are extremely aggressive when they are distressed and he of course had no idea we were trying to save him - he is a wild animal so his instinct would be to kill us.
|The young bull elephant struggled to get on its feet after being freed|
"I did not want to have to free him and only then have to shoot him in self defence. As it was, he was too weak to come after us."
Mr Taylor and the rest of the rescue team tried to get the elephant onto his feet to eat and drink.
Mr Taylor added: "An elephant will struggle to get up if he lies on his side, unless he has an ant hill or something to lean against.
"We managed to get him propped up on his belly and left him alone to recover a bit overnight.
"But when we went back the next morning, he had not managed to get up and he was just weaker.
"By midday, he was just suffering and had no chance of getting up, so we decided to put him out of his misery.
"He was dying and stressed and it was the right thing to do for him."
Ray Townsend, who also works at the lodge, said: "He could not stand, could not get up by himself.
"Time is as always crucial in these matters and he was stuck in the mud longer than we thought – three to four days with dehydration, no water, in the hot sun and slowly exhausting himself from trying to get out.
"In the end, putting him down was the kindest thing we could have done for him.
"Watching an animal die of thirst in the bush is not something we wanted to witness, or put him through. It was a sad situation, but we are glad that we made the effort we did."