The old adage that an elephant never forgets seems accurate, based on a touching video showing an Asian elephant returning to its mother after years of separation.
After a 62-mile (100km) trek through the Thai jungle, Me-Bai, the little elephant, can be seen snuggling against its mother, Mae Yui. Simultaneously, the couple happily claps their ears and caresses each other using trunks in the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary in the country’s north.
Me-Bai was sold to transport tourists in Thailand when she was three and a half years old and did not meet her mother, who also works in the trade, for three years.
It is unfortunate because females tend to stick together in groups until they die, sharing solid relationships. They very rarely separate before the calf is five years old.
The little elephant left the travel business “because she [Me-Bai] was too young [and] started to lose weight and could no longer carry tourists,” according to Elephant News.
Me-Bai was recently rescued and sent back to the sanctuary after a tiring 62-mile (100km) hike in the heat that lasted four days.
“Me-Bai was very worried and wary of everyone when she first arrived at the sanctuary, but she quickly learned that her new caregivers had no intention of abusing her in any way,” the sanctuary stated.
She was initially wary of people but quickly adapted to her new surroundings, National Geographic reported.
The workers know that Me-Bai’s mother is working in the nearby tourism industry and that its owner has agreed to retire Mae Yui so she can join her child at the reserve.
The touching moment that the couple reunited was filmed on camera.
It shows the elephants stroking each other with their trunks and clapping their ears – seemingly delighted – after spending half an hour of uncertainty together in the place of nurturers even though they may be worried about being divided again.
A previous study was done in the park by Mahidol University in Thailand and Emory University in the US. They found that elephants comfort each other when they are stressed by softly yelling and stroking each other’s heads and genitals.
These actions can be seen in the video.
Elephant behavioral psychologist and expert Preston Foerder, University of Tennessee, says the elephants communicate by touch and sound, and vision because their trunks are very sensitive.
The duo can be seen walking and eating happily together in the following video.
However, Frans de Waal, an animal behavior expert at Emory University, implies that elephants could not remember each other but only compatible pairs.
“There is no doubt about elephant affections and bonds, but we humans like to read mother-daughter relationships on this,” he said.
“The two may miss each other, but the video itself doesn’t necessarily prove this.”
Either way, the sanctuary said: “Currently, the owners of Mae Yui and Elephant Nature Park are working together to rehabilitate Mae Yui and Me-Bai so they can return to the wild and live free.”