Classical piano soothes old elephants at Thai sanctuary

Classical piano soothes old elephants at Thai sanctuary

British volunteer Paul Barton and his daughter Emily Barton, 4, play piano for sick, abused, retire
British volunteer Paul Barton and his daughter Emily Barton, 4, play the piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

KANCHANABURI, Thailand: Lam Duan, a 65-year-old, blind Thai elephant is enjoying her lunch, listening to Silent Night being played on a piano.

For eight years, pachyderms like Lam Duan - old, overworked and sometimes disabled - have been rehabilitated with music at Elephants World, a retirement sanctuary for the animals in the western Thai province of Kanchanaburi.

Almost 80 per cent of about 3,000 elephants at tourist venues in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka, endure poor living conditions and diets and are overworked, according to the animal welfare group World Animal Protection.

A woman hugs a blind elephant before Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued
A woman hugs a blind elephant before Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

British volunteer Paul Barton unloads his piano before he plays for sick, abused, retired and rescu
British volunteer Paul Barton unloads his piano before he plays for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

The animals at Elephants World get good food and treatment for their physical ailments, but the music is an extra, special treat they appear to love.

Several times a week, British classical pianist Paul Barton, 57, sets up a piano against a backdrop of forested slopes and plays for his four-legged friends.

"Maybe some of these blind elephants get a little bit of comfort from hearing pieces of soothing classical music occasionally," says Barton, who studied at London's Royal Academy of Arts.

Elephants eat their breakfast as they listen British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, ab
Elephants eat their breakfast as they listen to British volunteer Paul Barton. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Emily Barton, 4, is seen before she and her father play piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued
Emily Barton, 4, is seen before she and her father play the piano. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Lam Duan approached Barton as he began to play and she appeared to calm down and focus on the music.

At another music session, several elephants seemed to move their heads and move about in front of the piano as the notes flowed.

British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctu
British volunteer Paul Barton plays the piano for elephants at the sanctuary. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctu
British volunteer Paul Barton plays the piano as the elephants have their breakfast. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

The owner of the sanctuary, Samart Prasithpol, 44, said the music seemed to provide the elephants with some special comfort.

"We work here to rehabilitate the elephants physically," Smart told Reuters.

"The use of music has been useful in rehabilitating their soul," he said.

Source: Reuters/zl

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