If ever there was a sight that reaffirmed humankind’s basic capacity to do nice by the world, then this might be it. In the video, a three-week-old baby elephant lays curled up on a women’s lap, as she softly sings a lullaby to the drowsy pachyderm, gently stroking its head.
The clip was filmed at the Chai Lai Orchard nature reserve in Thailand’s Chaing Mai mountains. Elephants are a huge part of Thai culture, with around 2,500 in the hands of private owners, with a similar number left remaining in the wild. The animals are often used as transportation for tourists, and also in the country’s logging industry.
Started by Alexa Pham of DaughtersRising.org, Chai Lai Orchid is a sanctuary that was originally founded for the purpose of housing and training local minority girls at risk of human trafficking.
Now it also ‘seek[s] to deepen the understanding and respect between [tourists] and elephants… To educate guests about this endangered species, inspiring activism and fair treatment.’
At present the group rents 11 elephants from across the river opposite Chai Lai Orchard; their aim is show the elephants’ owners that tourism will not subside even if they get rid of traditional chair-riding, a practice that opponents point out can be monstrously heavy and cruel for the elephants subjected to it.
Instead the eco-tourism operation offers the opportunity to play freely with the elephants, swim with them, feed them throughout the day and—of course—sing them softly to sleep.
As for the women herself, her name is Allie and she’s been close to this young elephant since it was born just over three weeks ago, the two apparently forming a ‘special bond’. The song she’s singing? We’re not sure, but commentators on the video’s YouTube page think it’s the River Lullaby from Dreamwork’s The Prince of Egypt.