"We were worried that the baby elephant might choke on the water or die from exhaustion," Xinhua cited Xiong Chaoyong, deputy manager of Yunnan's Asian elephant breeding and rescue center as saying.
Rescuers used firecrackers and helicopters to keep the rest of the herd away, giving a digging machine the chance to smash one wall of the tank, providing the pachyderms with an escape route.
The digging process took about a half hour and injured the eye of one of the adults, the Beijing News reported.
The trio trundled away from the site on Tuesday afternoon.
Asian elephants are first-class national protected animals in China, but poaching has caused their numbers to dwindle to about 300 in the wild.
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