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Eleven wild elephants trapped for days in a mudhole in northeastern Cambodia were rescued over the weekend, conservationists said Tuesday.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said the elephants were trapped for three days in the mud of a crater, caused by a Vietnam War-era bomb, which had since been enlarged by farmers to store water.

After local farmers discovered the elephants in distress at the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province, the government and the WCS cooperated to mobilize a rescue on Saturday.

“If the community had not got together with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Department of Environment to rescue these 11 Asian Elephants, this would have been a tragedy” said Tan Setha, WCS Technical Advisor.

“This herd consisted of three adult females and eight juveniles of various ages, including a male that had almost reached maturity. These elephants represent an important part of the breeding population in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, and their loss would have been a major blow for conservation.”

Ross Sinclair, WCS country director, called it “a great example of everyone working together in Cambodia to save wildlife.”

“Too often the stories around conservation are about conflict and failure, but this is one about cooperation and success. That the last elephant to be rescued needed everyone to pull together on a rope to drag it to safety is symbolic of how we have to work together for conservation” he added.

The wildlife sanctuary, about 300 km northeast of Phnom Penh, is one of the most important habitats for wild elephants in Cambodia, with more than 100 of them living inside the protected area.

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