This pianist plays classical music to soothe blind elephants (Video)

Elephants are amazing creatures that are actually quite a lot like humans: they have long memories, they socialize, have complex ways of communicating, and even can be seen painting.

But an elephant’s life isn’t always easy, especially when they are currently being threatened by poaching and habitat loss through deforestation. Such is the case in Thailand, where logging operations used domesticated elephants in transporting lumber; however, once the forests were gone, many of these elephants were left ‘unemployed’ and suffering work-related conditions like blindness.

Helping to rehabilitate these forgotten creatures is British-born pianist Paul Barton, who plays the piano for blind and injured elephants living in Elephants World, a Thai sanctuary for rescued pachyderms. It’s a remarkable thing to watch this classically trained pianist play soothing tunes for these gentle, sightless giants:

Barton, who has lived in Thailand since 1996, got started on this fascinating path when the sanctuary allowed him to bring a piano in to play music for the handicapped animals. Barton recounts:

The first time I played piano at Elephants World, a blind elephant called Plara was closest to the piano by coincidence. He was having his breakfast of bana grass but when he heard the music for the first time, he suddenly stopped eating with the grass protruding from his mouth and stayed motionless all through the music.

I returned to Elephants World with the piano and stayed for long periods. There wasn’t many visitors back then so I could spend a lot of time each day alone with Plara and the other elephants. Plara really liked slow classical music and each time I played piano or flute he curled his trunk and held the tip trembling in his mouth until the music was over.

To see more of Paul Barton, visit his YouTube channel, or check out this recent documentary on his work, Music For Elephants.