Paul Barton is an English artist and pianist who love animals.
In 1996, Barton decided he wanted to go on a new adventure, and so, he moved to Thailand. He only planned to spend three months in the country, but everything changed when he met his future wife, Khwan.
Khwan is a wildlife artist and animal activist. Through her, Barton started getting more involved in the animal activism community in Thailand.
Barton became especially interested in helping Thailand’s elephants.
Barton learned that Thailand went through a period of rapid deforestation from 1975 to 1986. People around the world wanted Thailand’s teak wood, and so companies started cutting down trees without worrying about the animals who were losing their homes.
Elephants were some of the animals that suffered the most during this time. Many companies forced elephants to carry heavy logs for them. As the elephants carried the logs, they would often get scratched by sharp twigs and branches, leaving them bloody.
In 1989, Thailand’s government finally banned commercial timber logging. But the elephants’ suffering wasn’t over yet—they had lost their homes and had nowhere to go.
Many conservationists and animal lovers set up sanctuaries for these abused and neglected elephants. These sanctuaries gave elephants the space they needed to roam. It was the next best thing to being in the wild.
Paul Barton visited one of these sanctuaries, Elephants World, and fell in love with the elephants there.
When he saw how emotional and empathetic the animals were, he came up with a great idea. He would play classical music for the elephants! Barton called his program Music for Elephants.
“The first time I played piano at Elephants World, a blind elephant called Plara was closest to the piano by coincidence,” Barton told Coconuts Bangkok. “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.”
Barton shares videos of his concerts on his YouTube page. The elephants love listening to his playing—they’ll often stand right next to the piano, moving their ears and trunk in time to the music.
In one particularly emotional video, Barton plays Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” for an elephant who has had a very tough life.
The elephant, Amphan, is 80 years old, and she is blind in one eye and has trouble seeing out of the other eye. But Amphan absolutely loves music. As Barton plays for her, she stands completely still, looking transfixed. When the cameraman zooms in on her face, you can see that she’s clearly crying. This elephant was so moved by Barton’s beautiful playing!
After Barton is finished playing, he makes sure to stop and give the elephant a hug.
Amphan and the other elephants at Elephants World have gone through so much, and now, all they want to do is rest. Barton’s music helps them relax, and it shows them how beautiful life can be. If you’d like to see Barton’s heartwarming piano performance, check out the video below.
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