After being swept just under 10 miles out to sea, dramatic footage has been released of the navy stepping in to recuse an elephant.
Officials first noticed the animal in distress after a routine patrol off the island's northeast coast. The animal was struggling to stay afloat and used its trunk as a makeshift snorkel to breathe.
Sri Lankan Navy officials believe the animal was pulled out to sea while trying to cross the Kokkilai lagoon. The lagoon lies in the middle of an animal sanctuary and sits between two stretches of jungle.
"They usually wade through shallow waters or even swim across to take a short cut," one official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Continue to the next page to see the rescue video.
During the 12-hour laborious process, Navy officials were able to swim from a ship in scuba gear with ropes, which they tied around the elephant. One rescuer even sat on the elephant's back to help guide it to safety.
Once safely on shore, the animal was released into the care of wildlife officials.
The elephant is recovering well from it's near-death experience and is headed back out to the wild.
Watch the video of the amazing rescue below:
It's not uncommon to see an elephant swimming. These large mammals are buoyant in the water and can fully swim when submerged.
"Elephants are considered the best swimmers of any land mammal—perhaps excluding trained human swimmers," said Joyce Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices.
The Navy intervened, because it appeared that the animal was tired and unable to swim due to the ordeal. Also, prolonged exposure to saltwater could have damaged the elephant's skin.
Asian elephants are classified as an endangered species and have faced significant threats to the their habitats and from hunters who want their meat and leather.
The Sri Lanken elephant population has fallen by almost 65 percent due to an increase in deforestation on the island. Elephants are currently protected under Sri Lanken law, as a result.