Many years have passed since Dr. Maneeon last met his patient. But the elephant has not forgotten the man who helped him make it.
This touching story took place in the jungles of Thailand in March 2021. Dr. Pattarapol Maneeon was making his way through the dense thickets of a nature reserve when suddenly he heard the soft cry of an elephant. He knew exactly who it belonged to. While many people think all elephants trumpet the same sound, that's not true. Each animal makes its own set of sounds. Twelve years ago the vet treated the elephant named Plai Tang. His voice he would have recognized among a thousand others, and now the doctor was sure that his former patient was somewhere nearby.
And then the elephant saw him! The doctor beckoned the elephant, and the elephant took a few steps toward him and then reached for the man's hand with his trunk. Dr. Pattarapol realized that Plai Tang recognized him. It was an amazing moment of reunion between two old friends a dozen years after the last time they had met.
The veterinarian first saw Plai Tang in 2009, when the elephant was found half-dead in the forests of Rayong. The animal was then diagnosed with trypanosomiasis or "sleeping sickness," a parasitic disease caused by protozoa, Trypanosoma brucei.
The baby elephant suffered from a range of painful symptoms including fever, iron deficiency, conjunctivitis, swollen face, abdomen, neck, and motor difficulties. "Plai Tang was behaving very aggressively. He was weak and could not stand up to other elephants. The treatment was long, but during that time we were able to learn what a smart animal we were dealing with," Dr. Maneeon recalls.
After treatment, the elephant was moved to the Department of Forestry Reserve in Lampang Province, where he was looked after by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. After a few months of care and attention, Plai Tang was released into the wild.
Dr. Pattarapol could not hope that the elephant would remember him after so many years. But it turned out that the animal had not forgotten someone who was kind to him and saved his life. For the veterinarian, this unexpected and touching reunion was yet another reward for his hard work. "An amazing and very personal moment... It was for moments like these that I chose this profession," he says.
Does the elephant still remember his doctor?
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