This is Mongkol. He is a 61-year-old former logging elephant who spent most of his life in captivity lugging trees around the Thai forest. He has physical deformations due to his extremely hard life including losing his right eye and tusk during his horrible and cruel practice.
Thankfully, Mongkol has been rescued from this difficult life and is living out the rest of his years at “ElephantsWorld” an animal rescue facility in Thailand by the River Kwai. Musician, Paul Barton, discovered that Mongkol enjoyed listening to him playing the piano. He said, “I discovered Mongkol is an extremely gentle, sensitive elephant who enjoys music, especially this slow movement by Beethoven which I play to him occasionally in the day and night.”
Paul Barton is a pianist from Yorkshire who traded the dales and concert halls for the jungles of Thailand, where he performs for blind and handicapped elephants. In the video below, Paul plays Debussy’s Clair de Lune for an 80-year-old blind elephant. It will touch your soul and leave you with tears in your eyes.
About Paul Barton
Paul regularly plays for the elephants. He hopes to bring calm and comfort to these beautiful creatures who have often led tough lives. He finds slow music can calm aggressive bull elephants, and gentle music can bring peace and comfort to blind elephants.
It’s hard to read Paul’s life story so far and not feel that yours is very ordinary by comparison! That would still be the case if he had started out as a musician, but he didn’t. At sixteen, he began studying at the Royal Academy of Art. He won numerous student competitions in portrait drawing and painting, and when he graduated, he was awarded The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation prize. He was granted exhibitions at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
At this time, despite these incredible achievements that any artist would envy, Paul decided to move into music. He studied the piano and was soon touring and playing at concert venues around the world. After a while, he decided this life was not for him, so he travelled to Thailand to teach piano for a few months. That was the plan, but when he met his future wife and wildlife photographer, Khwan, all his plans changed.
Thailand And YouTube
He became a permanent resident in Thailand and set up a recording studio in Bangkok. As so many musicians do, he started his own YouTube channel, where he gives free tutorials to piano students as well as recordings of his own masterful performances of classical music pieces from Beethoven to Schumann. This channel has now attracted over 500,000 subscribers.
However, in recent years, the subscribers who visit his channel are drawn in by a much more unusual performance. In 2011 Paul was making a video about the River Kwai for his channel. While he was in the area, he learned of the nearby Elephant’s World sanctuary created for old, injured or handicapped elephants that had been used for logging. Paul visited and, after falling in love with it, asked the manager if he could return with his piano to play for the elephants. The rest is history.
Plara The Elephant
On his first visit, he formed an attachment to an old, blind elephant called Plara. Plara happened to be nearest to the piano when Paul started to play. When he heard the music, he froze, his breakfast of bana grass still sticking out of his mouth. From then on, whenever Paul played for him, Plana curled the tip of his trunk into his mouth and kept it there for the whole performance. Paul was heartbroken when Plana later died from infection.