Classical piano soothes old elephants at Thai sanctuary

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British volunteer Paul Barton and his daughter Emily Barton, 4, play piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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British volunteer Paul Barton and his daughter Emily Barton, 4, play piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Elephants eat their breakfast as they listen British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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British volunteer Paul Barton unloads his piano before he plays for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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British volunteer Paul Barton plays piano for sick, abused, retired and rescued elephants in sanctuary along Thailand-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, December 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Classical piano soothes old elephants at Thai sanctuary

  • At another music session, several elephants seemed to move their heads and move about in front of the piano as the notes flowed

KANCHANABURI, Thailand: Lam Duan, a 65-year-old, blind Thai elephant is enjoying her lunch, listening to Silent Night being played on a piano.
For eight years, pachyderms like Lam Duan — old, overworked and sometimes disabled — have been rehabilitated with music at Elephants World, a retirement sanctuary for the animals in the western Thai province of Kanchanaburi.
Almost 80 percent of about 3,000 elephants at tourist venues in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka, endure poor living conditions and diets and are overworked, according to the animal welfare group World Animal Protection.
The animals at Elephants World get good food and treatment for their physical ailments, but the music is an extra, special treat they appear to love.
Several times a week, British classical pianist Paul Barton, 57, sets up a piano against a backdrop of forested slopes and plays for his four-legged friends.
“Maybe some of these blind elephants get a little bit of comfort from hearing pieces of soothing classical music occasionally,” says Barton, who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.
Lam Duan approached Barton as he began to play and she appeared to calm down and focus on the music.
At another music session, several elephants seemed to move their heads and move about in front of the piano as the notes flowed.
The owner of the sanctuary, Samart Prasithpol, 44, said the music seemed to provide the elephants with some special comfort.
“We work here to rehabilitate the elephants physically,” Smart told Reuters.
“The use of music has been useful in rehabilitating their soul,” he said.


Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

A woman poses for a photo among poppies in bloom on the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, on March 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 min 8 sec ago
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Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

  • More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

LAKE ELSINORE, California: Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” the Southern California city of Lake Elsinore is being overwhelmed by the power of the poppies.
About 150,000 people over the weekend flocked to see this year’s rain-fed flaming orange patches of poppies lighting up the hillsides near the city of about 60,000 residents, about a 90-minute drive from either San Diego or Los Angeles.
Interstate 15 was a parking lot. People fainted in the heat; a dog romping through the fields was bitten by a rattlesnake.
A vibrant field of poppies lures Dorothy into a trap in the “Wizard of Oz” when the wicked witch, acknowledging that no one can resist their beauty, poisons the wildflowers and she slips into a fatal slumber until the good witch reverses the spell.
Lake Elsinore had tried to prepare for the crush of people drawn by the super bloom, a rare occurrence that usually happens about once a decade because it requires a wet winter and warm temperatures that stay above freezing.
It offered a free shuttle service to the top viewing spots, but it wasn’t enough.
Sunday traffic got so bad that Lake Elsinore officials requested law enforcement assistance from neighboring jurisdictions. At one point, the city pulled down the curtain and closed access to poppy-blanketed Walker Canyon.
“It was insane, absolutely insane,” said Mayor Steve Manos, who described it as a “poppy apocalypse.”
By Monday the #poppyshutdown announced by the city on Twitter was over and the road to the canyon was re-opened.
And people were streaming in again.
Young and old visitors to the Lake Elsinore area seemed equally enchanted as they snapped selfies against the natural carpet of iridescent orange.
Some contacted friends and family on video calls so they could share the beauty in real time. Artists propped canvasses on the side of the trail to paint the super bloom, while drones buzzed overhead.
Patty Bishop, 48, of nearby Lake Forest, was on her second visit. The native Californian had never seen such an explosion of color from the state flower. She battled traffic Sunday but that didn’t deter her from going back Monday for another look. She got there at sunrise and stayed for hours.
“There’s been so many in just one area,” she said. “I think that’s probably the main reason why I’m out here personally is because it’s so beautiful.”
Stephen Kim and his girlfriend got to Lake Elsinore even before sunrise Sunday to beat the crowds but there were already hundreds of people.
The two wedding photographers hiked on the designated trails with an engaged couple to do a photo shoot with the flowers in the background, but they were upset to see so many people going off-trail and so much garbage. They picked up as many discarded water bottles as they could carry.
“You see this beautiful pristine photo of nature but then you look to the left and there’s plastic Starbucks cups and water bottles on the trail and selfie sticks and people having road rage because some people were walking slower,” said Kim, 24, of Carlsbad.
Andy Macuga, honorary mayor of the desert town of Borrego Springs, another wildflower hotspot, said he feels for Lake Elsinore.
In 2017, a rain-fed super bloom brought in more than a half-million visitors to the town of 3,500. Restaurants ran out of food. Gas stations ran out of fuel. Traffic backed up on a single road for 20 miles (32 kilometers).
The city is again experiencing a super bloom.
The crowds are back. Hotels are full. More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest park with 1,000 square miles (2,590 sq. kilometers).
But it helps that the masses of blooms are appearing in several different areas this time, and some sections are fading, while others are lighting up with flowers, helping to disperse the crowds a bit.
Most importantly, Macuga said, the town’s businesses prepared this time as if a major storm was about to hit. His restaurant, Carlee’s, is averaging more than 550 meals a day, compared to 300 on a normal March day.
“We were completely caught off guard in 2017 because it was the first time that we had had a flower season like this with social media,” he said. “It helps now knowing what’s coming.”