Baby elephant torn apart by hyenas as mum watches helplessly in graphic pics

A shocking series of photos shows a baby elephant torn apart by hyenas and vultures as it struggles to escape from a sticky pool of mud.

Wildlife photographer Jens Cullmannsays he felt “helpless” as he watched the tragedy unfold in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe.

He discovered the elephant, along with its mum, early one morning while out on a game walk, believing they had been there a couple of hours after becoming stuck overnight.

He explained: "You see this helpless little elephant baby and of course I knew it would probably die because I couldn't help it on my own.

"You can't just go out with a shovel and start digging. I have other photos of a similar incident where ten or 15 people are digging out two elephants. It's a mission, it's a big thing."

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"Seeing the mother still alive was actually quite sad and cruel in a way. Just to imagine it's the worst thing that can happen to a mother.

In the disturbing photos, the mum watches as her child is torn apart the hyenas and then pecked at by vultures.

In one picture, the hyenas are seen running off with part of the elephant’s leg.

Jens added: "Both you and your baby get stuck in the mud and she couldn't help because her trunk was out of reach.

"For the mother to see and hear the noises at nighttime when the hyenas kill her baby – imagining that was actually very upsetting."

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"There's one picture that's also quite sad when the mother is still alive with vultures around her and one is sitting on her back while she can't move.

"But if you break it down, it's nature and this happens. It's survival of the fittest. It was very hard to take those photos but I saw it as a chance to document it in a way.

"I heard the mother died while they were trying to rescue her. I didn't go there anymore. I actually have to say at the end it was so sad for me because I couldn't do anything."

Jens took the photos in October but it took him a "long time" to bring himself to share them.

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He said 2019 was an "exceptional" year because it had been very dry after the rainy season ended early – causing a lot of animals to suffer.

Jens said: "It was quite an exceptional year because it was very, very dry. The rainy season ended quite early and people told me that in May it was already quite dry.

"Both were just totally stuck in the mud. They couldn't move much beside their heads and their trunks.

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