A touching set of pictures taken in the Sabah region of Borneo show the calf getting into difficulty as it tried to clamber up the steep bank after crossing the river Kinabatangan with his mother.

With the youngster distressed, mother tries to come to his aid by pushing him up the bank with her trunk.

But the task proves too tricky for her on her own.

Given the animals' traditionally close family bonds, it is no surprise that two relatives came to the rescue.

The pair managed to flatten the mud around the calf, making it easier for him to climb to safety.

Once the calf is safe, the adult group gather round him as he clings close to his mother's legs in an adorable show of unity.

Photographer Beniot Goossens, of the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, said that it took all three adults about half an hour to get the baby on its way again.

He said: 'The mother and baby were crossing the river but the bank proved too steep for the calf.

'The mother tried to push it but she couldn't manage on her own so called on two members of her family.

'While the mother pushed the others flattened the mud to make it more accessible for the calf. About half an hour later they were all on their way.'

Benoit described the sight as 'emotional'.

He added: 'I've been studying elephants for many years but some of the students I was with were blown away by the elephants' behaviour.

'It goes to show that animals often take care of each other better than humans.'

Elephants are known for living in tight knit matriarchal families with the adult females looking after their sick, injured, or orphaned offspring.

Like human offspring, calves remain with their mothers until they are teenagers, with some female elephants known to stay with their parent for their entire lives.

Elephants usually give birth to one calf every two to four years with their babies already weighing around 200lbs when born and standing at 3ft tall.

They eventually grow to up to 9.8ft tall and consume a staggering 270kg of food a day.

Asian elephants have been domesticated for thousands of years. The powerful beasts have been employed to move heavy objects, such as felled trees, to carry humans on their backs, and even to wage war.

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