A wild elephant has recognised the vet who treated him 12 years ago in a heartwarming moment caught on camera.
The 31-year-old bull named Plai Thang reached out his trunk to touch Doctor Pattarapol Maneeon’s hand during an unexpected reunion this month.
In 2009, the elephant was found struggling through woodland in Rayong, eastern Thailand.
It was suffering with potentially fatal trypanosomiasis – a parasitic condition also known as sleeping sickness.
Doctor Pattarapol arrived to treat the stricken jumbo, which was ‘close to death’ and contending with a fever, loss of appetite, and swelling on its face, neck and stomach.
Plai Thang was also suffering from inflamed eyes, stiff legs and back and anaemia.
The frail animal was taken to the Forest Industry Organisation’s territory in Lampang province to be treated by staff from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
He was released several months later after recovering.
Earlier this month, Doctor Pattarapol was patrolling the area when he said he recognised the distinctive sound of the elephant he encountered 12 years ago.
He beckoned to Plai Thang who reached his trunk out to greet Doctor Pattarapol, making contact with a human for what is believed to be the first time in more than a decade.
The vet is certain that Plai Thang recognised him.
‘I remember the sound very clearly,’ Doctor Pattarapol said. ‘Plai Thang’s noise is very unique.’
‘Plai Thang was very aggressive when we first met. His body was weak and he could not fight other elephants. It took a long time for him to heal, but we learned that he was very smart and took care of himself.
‘Recently, we met again. We could remember each other and we greeted. It was a very special moment.
‘I hope it encourages everybody to appreciate the work that people do with elephants,’ Doctor Pattarapol said.
Elephants are the official animal of Thailand and there are an estimated 3,000-4,000 of the animals living in the country.
Of this figure, at least half are domesticated, while the remainder live in nature reserves.