An English artist and pianist named Paul Barton has always been fond of animals. He moved to Thailand in 1996, in search of a new and unique experience. He arranged to stay there for only about three months. However, he was captivated not only by the foreign land but also by a woman who shares his love for animals.

Khwan, who eventually became his beloved wife, is an animal advocate and a wildlife artist. Through their shared fondness, Barton has been inspired to get more involved in Thailand’s animal activism community.


Thailand’s culture and tourism have always been known for the involvement of elephants. In the past, Thailand’s teak wood became so in demand to people all over the world, that tons of trees were cut down by big companies without worry and consideration whatsoever for animals living in the forests. That’s why from 1975-1986, the country went through a quick phase of deforestation.

Barton learned about that critical period and discovered that elephants were the ones who mostly suffered. They were made to carry heavy and large logs for the said logging companies, and were often injured through the whole process leaving them with scratches and wounds all over their bodies.

As the government in Thailand permanently banned the loggers in 1989. However, the tragedy with elephants was far from being over, now these poor animals have lost the forests they call home.

Animal lovers and enthusiasts banded together to build these abused elephants a sanctuary– a place closest to the home they used to have, where they can be safe, cared for and free to roam around as they please.


One of these sanctuaries called Elephants World was visited by Barton and he instantly fell in love with the majestic creatures. Being close to the elephants, Barton discovers how emotionally inclined these animals are and decided to create a program which he called Music for Elephants. Where he could share his love for music to them by playing classical piano pieces.

Barton told Coconuts Bangkok, that the first time he played piano in Elephants World, an elephant that was blind named Plara was standing closest to the piano. He was eating his bana grass for breakfast and suddenly stopped when he heard the music for the first time. He stayed still in awe listening to the music until it was finished.


There was a time that Barton had an emotional encounter with one of the elephants. He was caught on video, playing Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” for an elephant who has experienced so many hardships throughout her life. The 80-year-old elephant named Amphan, is blind in her one eye and can barely see on her other.

Watch the video here:

Though she cannot see very well, Amphan really loves hearing music. Barton decides to play for her one time. She seemed to be perfectly motionless, completely captivated by the music. As the camera was zoomed in on her, it was seen that tears were falling down her face– moved by Barton’s beautiful piano playing. Barton could not resist to hug and acknowledge the elephant after he was done.

Elephants in Elephants World have been through tough and cruel times. These animals only want to live in peace for their remaining time in the sanctuary. Barton, through his music, helped in keeping these abused elephants in a relaxed and calm state.


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