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AnimalsWorld | This Baby Elephant Thought Her Best Buddy Was Drowning, So She Rushed Into The River To Save Him

Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
No matter how much love, time and energy we spend on the animals in our lives, we can never be sure if that feeling is reciprocated. However, one trainer was so certain of his bond with his elephant pal that he decided to see if she’d come to his rescue in an emergency. And the outcome, as it turns out, was truly heartwarming.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
The little elephant named Kham Lha was saved from the Thai tourism industry in 2015. Around 4,000 elephants are estimated to work domestically in this trade, predominantly living in camps where their keepers, or “mahouts,” work them hard. But not every mahout follows the tough love training protocol.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
At the time of her rescue, Kham Lha was just four years old and, in elephant years, just entering adolescence. She was taken to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The park rescues elephants from all corners of Thailand and provides them with a sanctuary and mahouts who care about their well-being.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Khan La was one of 19 elephants that were brought to the Elephant Nature Park as a group. Her mother, Bai Teoy, was also among the rescued as well. Now safe at the foundation, they would be able to roam freely and create bonds with other elephants.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
And it was through the sanctuary that Kham Lha first met trainer Darrick Thomson. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Thompson came to Thailand more than ten years ago and has helped to save at least 40 elephants. This little elephant, then, had found herself in very good hands.
Image: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel
Image: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel
However, the animal had a lot of difficulties to overcome. In particular, Kham Lha had endured a cruel form of elephant crushing. This savage practice is used to domesticate wild elephants and involves placing them in a cage and tying them with ropes to completely prevent them from moving in any way.
Image: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel
Image: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel
Harrowingly, the practice is called “crushing” not because of its physically restrictive nature, but because it’s designed to crush an elephant’s spirit. It has been widely criticized by animal welfare campaigners, but advocates argue that it helps elephants learn basic commands.
Image: Rudolph.A.Furtado
Image: Rudolph.A.Furtado
Aside from being locked up for days, elephants may also be subjected to starvation. In addition, they are often forced to stay awake, beaten or even stabbed or burned into submission. Once the crushing process is over, the elephants are then trained. Of course, tourists never see the harm done – only the dancing, painting, pulling logs and rides the elephants provide for their entertainment.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
With all this in mind, Thomson had a big task ahead of him to win Kham Lha’s trust. “Kham Lha was in a really bad way when she came to us,” he said. “She had been tied up and forced to undergo cruel training known as crushing to prepare her to work in the tourist industry.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
However, after just one year of tender care, Thomson and Kham Lha had established an “inseparable bond.” As founder of the Elephant Nature Park Lek Chailert revealed in a February 2016 Facebook post, “From the first day he showed love and kindness to their group. It did not take long for them to love and accept him back.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
“Since he rescued Kham La, he spent time to heal her from the mental [anguish] and has shown love to her,” another member of staff added to CNN in October 2016. “It’s not long after that, she [made a] strong bond with him, and accepted him to be part of her herd.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Indeed, although he isn’t a full-time mahout, Thomson spent every moment he could with Kham Lha. He constantly reassured her by talking to her calmly, stuck by her side when she went bathing and provided her with lots of hugs and strokes. Pretty soon, then, she came to love and trust her human companion.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
One video recording of the smitten pair, moreover, showed just how much Kham Lha doted on her favorite human. In the clip, the elephant can be seen running toward Thomson at the mere call of her name. Another video, meanwhile, shows the pair gleefully running around the sanctuary together, with Kham Lha gripping Thomson’s hand firmly in her trunk.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
But although the incredible bond the pair shared was clear for the world to see, Thompson decided to test Kham Lha’s commitment to him. One day, the trainer was swimming in a river on the sanctuary when he started pretending to drown. As he splashed around in the water, then, he called out Kham Lha’s name – and the whole thing was caught on camera.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Sure enough, without any hesitation or concern for her own welfare, the devoted elephant leapt into action. Indeed, Kham Lha began wading through the water to reach him. And when she finally got to him, she protectively wrapped her trunk around him and tried to push him towards the bank.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Clearly delighted with the outcome of his experiment, Thomson flashed his colleagues a grin as Kham Lha continued to stand over him. “We freed her and helped her to recover. She became really close to me and we formed a strong bond,” Thomson said after his apparent rescue. “I went in the river to show just how remarkable the relationship with humans is.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
An Elephant Nature Park spokesperson added, “We’re all really pleased with Kham Lha’s progress and how well she’s adapted. She’s now a happy young elephant. The video shows just how close she is to Darrick and it’s an important lesson to be kind to animals.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Unsurprisingly, the adorable video became a hit online. On YouTube, in fact, it was viewed more than six million times and received over 1,000 comments in less than ten days. Most of the messages cooed over Kham Lha’s loyalty and celebrated the majestic creature in all her glory.
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
“Too adorable. Hope she got a truckload of peanuts,” wrote one user. Another added, “Animals are 100 times better than humans.” Meanwhile, one more commenter simply said, “The most magnificent creature.”
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
Image: YouTube/Elephant News
And while the video is indeed heartwarming, perhaps we can learn more from Thomson and Kham Lha. After all, their incredible bond shows just how much we have in common with our animal brothers and sisters. And, as Thomson puts it, “If you show warmth and kindness to them, they will treat you well, too.”

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