Lam Duan is a unique female elephant. She is 62 years old and has not had an easy life. After spending twenty years transporting logs, she was then used to transport tourists for another ten years, before enjoying a well-deserved retirement. Kept for 30 years by a couple, they finally decided to place her in a sanctuary in Thailand.
Located in the province of Kanchanaburi, ElephantsWorld takes care of elephants who are too old or too sick and whose owners do not want them any more; they are given a calm and peaceful place to live out the rest of their days. Lam Duan, whose name means a tree with yellow flowers, is the oldest and blind in both eyes, an infirmity she was already suffering from when she arrived at the centre in 2012.
Although the female can’t see, she can still hear perfectly. And Paul Barton, an English musician who has been settled in Thailand for twenty years, understood this well. He often goes to see the pachyderms, sits at his piano which is placed in a clearing, and plays classical music for them. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, he plays the whole repertoire.
Elephants transported by the music
'When you play classical music to an elephant, something beautiful and sweet, something timeless, their reaction is indescribable. Even more so when it comes to a blind elephant who has never heard music before,’ said the musician to the Yourstory.com website. The musician has filmed himself in the company of the elephants several times, which only proves what he is describing.
As one of the videos posted on YouTube shows, Lam Duan's reaction when Paul Barton plays her various pieces is very moving. The female bats her ears shakes her head and sways as if she is lost in the music. And, if we are to believe the musician, other even more surprising behaviours can be observed.
‘An elephant when eating is unstoppable. It devours everything, as if it was not sure it would ever be able to eat again afterwards. One morning, I started playing the piano early and Plara, a female, was devouring the leaves off a tree. I started playing her a piece by Beethoven and she stopped. This had never been seen before, the elephant stopped eating because of the music,’
This musician has a very simple motivation. ‘The elephant has been used in war, even to destroy its own forest. What can I do to tell it that I'm sorry that my fellow man did all this to it? If I can put my piano up on the hill and play a bit of music for the elephants while they have their breakfast and they appreciate it, it’s not much but it’s a start,’ he concludes. Clearly the elephants appreciate the attention.