In the Elephants World sanctuary in Thailand, Paul Barton plays classical music for the elderly and blind elephants living there. This “retirement home” not only offers a safe place for the elephants to roam, but also frequent live musical entertainment. These elephants will never forget the serenades Barton plays for them.
The elephant population in Thailand has decreased rapidly over the last century. Traditionally, the majestic animals worked with people in the logging industry to make the work easier. In 1989, the government shut down any logging activities to prevent devastating floods in the country. The many owners of the elephants lost their jobs and could not afford to keep their animals healthy, so a lot of elephants suffered. Thanks to many volunteers, sanctuaries for these elephants were created.
More than 20 years ago, Barton moved to Thailand to teach piano at a private school. He met his wife, an artist and an animal lover, and stayed in the country. At the sanctuary, volunteers help Barton bring a piano to different areas, so all the elephants get a chance to hear his music. Barton plays a variety of songs for the elephants, and each one reacts to his music differently. They all appreciate his music, whether they listen from afar, sway along to the melody, or join him in playing the piano.
A lot of these elephants have gone through quite traumatic experiences. Some have been worked very hard back in their logging days or when they served as tourist attractions in elephant riding tours. Some starved because their owners could not afford to feed them properly after the logging industry was banned. The classical music Barton plays for them to help reduce their stress. In 2008, a study proposed that classical music helped reduce stereotypy, a repetitive behaviour that could result in self-injury. Especially with elephants who went through a lot of trauma, any stress-reducers are needed to help them recover.
While munching on some delicious leaves, these elephants can enjoy the sound of Barton playing to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven—to name only a few. After all they’ve been through in life, the elephants deserve to enjoy their time in this “retirement home.” The sophisticated creatures could also have piano lessons one day.