Watch a Family of Elephants Band Together and Heroically Save Their Baby in Roaring Rapids

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: October 19, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Despite their large size, elephants are adept swimmers and can stay afloat for up to six hours.
  • Elephants have been known to cover impressive distances of up to 30 miles in the water.
  • While their swimming speed is relatively slow at around 1 mph, elephants can adapt their behavior in areas with fast-moving water and may choose to walk instead of swim.

Watch the Heart-Warming Clip Here

In this video, you see a mother elephant crossing a rushing river. Her baby slips away getting carried by the current. Suddenly, the mother elephant realizes her calf is missing. Quickly, she is able to catch up and guide her offspring to safety.

The rapids are no fun when you are the shortest member of the family. In this clip, we get to see the heart-stopping moment when a little elephant is in real danger of getting swept away.

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Even though it manages to get near the muddy bank, the water is too deep and is moving too quickly for it to move any further. At first, one elephant steps in to try to help but is not successful.

Eventually, another larger elephant joins in the rescue mission, and between them, they manage to guide the little one to safety. Phew!

Can Elephants Swim?

Yes! Both African and Asian elephants are excellent swimmers. Given that they are so heavy, this may be hard to believe but they are very proficient in the water. Elephants can stay afloat for up to six hours at a time and have covered 30 miles in the water. They swim at about 1 mph. However, this little elephant was in an area of very fast-moving water so it was trying to walk rather than swim.

Elephants need to go near water to drink. Even though they can survive for a day or so without drinking if they have to, they need between 20 and 50 gallons of water a day to stay healthy.

Animals that sleep standing up - Elephants

Elephants live in matriarchal groups with other females and their offspring

©Neil Tyers/

Do Elephants Live in Social Groups?

Yes, the behavior that we see here is typical of elephants. They are very social animals and form strong bonds with each other. An elephant herd can contain up to around 14-20 elephants. It can be a single elephant and her offspring or can be an extended family grouping.

It is a matriarchal group and contains just females and calves. Once the male calves are teenagers they leave the herd.

African elephants walking down dirt road

African elephants have patches of thin hair on their heads.


There is a hierarchy in the herd and one female (the matriarch) is the leader. The herd is highly protective of the offspring and works together to keep the calves safe. That is exactly what we see in action in this heartwarming clip!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Johan W. Elzenga/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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