A wild elephant recognized the vet who treated him 12 years ago in a heartwarming moment captured on camera.
A 31-year-old elephant named Plai Thang reached out his trunk to touch Dr. Pattarapol Maneeon’s hand during a surprise reunion this month.
In 2009, the elephant was found struggling through the jungle in Rayong, eastern Thailand.
It was suffering from potentially fatal infection with trypanosomiasis – a parasitic condition also known as sleeping sickness.
Dr. Pattarapol came to treat the patient suffering from this condition ‘near death’ and contending from a fever, loss of appetite, and swelling on the face, neck, and stomach.
Plai Thang also suffered from eye inflammation, stiff legs and back, and anemia.
The ailing animal was taken to Forest Industry Organization’s territory in Lampang province to be cared for by staff from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
He was released a few months later after recovering.
Earlier this month, Dr. Pattarapol was patrolling the area when he said he recognized the distinctive sound of an elephant he encountered 12 years ago.
He gestured to Plai Thang, who had extended his trunk to greet Dr. Pattarapol, making contact with a human for what is believed to be the first time in more than a decade.
The vet was sure that Plai Thang recognized him.
Dr. Pattarapol said: “I remember that sound very clearly. ‘The noise of Plai Thang is very unique.’
‘Plai Thang was very aggressive when we first met. His body was weak and he couldn’t fight other elephants. It took a long time for him to heal, but we learned that he is brilliant and takes care of himself.
‘We met again recently. We can miss each other and we say hello. It was an extraordinary moment.
“I hope it encourages everybody to appreciate the work that people do with elephants,” Dr. Pattarapol said.
Elephants are the official animal of Thailand and an estimated 3,000-4,000 species of animals live in the country.
Of these, at least half are domesticated, while the rest live in nature reserves.