A recent viral video shows a baby elephant rushing into a raging river to help a man who she thought was drowning.
The touching scene was captured on camera in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where the five year old calf, Kham Lha, noticed Darrick Thomson struggling in the deep torrent.
Leaving her fellow elephants on the bank, the tiny rescuer raced into the river towards Thomson to lend a trunk to her special friend.
When you see the video, you might think, ‘awww, that’s all kinds of cute!‘ But there’s a heart-wrenching reason behind Kham Lha being on that river bank.
The river is a part of a protected jungle sanctuary where dozens of rescued elephants are able to roam around freely.
Kham Lha was rescued last year from an abusive owner and was nursed back to health by Thomson, who’d moved from Canada to work with Elephants in Thailand at the Save Elephant Foundation.
According to Thomson,“Kham Lha was in a really bad way when she came to us. She had been tied up and forced to undergo cruel training known as crushing to prepare her to work in the tourist industry.
“We freed her and helped her to recover. She became really close to me and we formed a strong bond.
“I went in the river to show just how remarkable the relationship with humans is. And that if you show warmth and kindness to them, they will treat you well, too.”
The technique called crushing is one that is horrid and cruel. Young elephants are prepared for the tourist industry by being restrained and continuously beaten until they’re submissive – which is all for the thrills of vacationers having a safe and subdued elephant to ride around and take pictures with.
Because of such abhorring cruelty, some of these animals, who of course do have feelings, are left internally broken and scarred for the rest of their lives.
Luckily, Kham Lha was one of the few who was able to make a relatively quick recovery thanks to the constant care of staffers at the rescue foundation.
“We’re all really pleased with Kham Lha’s progress and how well she’s adapted.” A spokesman for the foundation stated. “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.”
According to senior wildlife and veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection, Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, “Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm, but the brutal truth is that breaking these animals’ spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn.”
So, the next time you go on a holiday somewhere and think about riding an elephant or being allowed to get up close and personal with animals that should be out in the wild, think about what those animals had to endure for you to be able to smile and take pictures with them.
Image via SWNS: South West News Service