Jim McMahon

The first time Paul Barton played piano at the Elephants World sanctuary in Thailand, a blind elephant nearby stopped eating and remained motionless—grass protruding from his mouth—while he listened. The British-born musician had lugged his piano over bumpy terrain to serenade the herd of retired logging elephants, many of which are old, injured, or handicapped. “I wondered whether soothing classical music could play a part in rehabilitating elephants that have had stressful lives,” Barton says. Studies show that relaxing melodies can calm many animals, and Barton quickly noticed the positive effect Beethoven and Bach were having on the creatures as they swayed to the rhythm and held their trunks in their mouths while listening. Soon Barton was a regular at the center, eventually moving closer to it so he could continue to play for elephants like Chai Chana, pictured above. “We work to make the lives of these rescued elephants better in the ways we can,” Barton says. “It’s an unforgettable feeling . . . I’ve never got used to.”