There’s nothing better than running into an old friend after years of separation. Well, when Nam Fon the rescued elephant returned to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand’s (WFFT) Elephant Refuge and Education Center after six years, she was reacquainted with her old pal Pai Lin. Their interaction is truly beautiful!

Nam Fon lived at the WFFT Elephant Refuge from 2004 to 2010, along with her mahout (keeper). But after six years of living happily, her mahout demanded more money from the refuge. Unfortunately, WFFT was not in a position to pay him, so she was taken away from the refuge in the middle of the night. Along with a few other elephants, Nam Fon went right back to the tourism industry.

Each year, millions of tourists flock to Thailand in hopes of interacting with Asian elephants. Eager to take a selfie with calves, or ride on a pachyderm through the jungle, travelers are lead to believe that these excursions are normal and – worst of all – acceptable. Yet these interactions are anything but natural.

Elephant are taken from the wild and sold into ”camps” where they are forced to work nonstop giving tourists rides, performing tricks and even in some cases giving massages to paying customers. In order to render wild elephants docile enough to perform all these feats, elephant trainers subject young calves to a six-month “breaking period.” During this time, the baby elephant is shackled, beaten, and abused by humans until they lose their will to fight back.

Luckily, despite spending the last six years at an elephant camp notorious for their cruel abuse,  Nam Fon is still alive at 45-year-old years old. Now, she’s back at the refuge, where she’ll have a beautiful life of friendship and love!

Before being taken from the refuge, Nam Fon and Pai Lin were close friends. WFFT fought to raise sufficient funds through an Indiegogo campaign to bring Nam Fon back to the refuge … and they succeeded!

According to WFFT, the initial introduction went well. They touched and smelled each other, showing true interest! 

In the wild, elephants can live in herds that range from eight to 100 elephants. These herds form complex social groups that bear a strong resemblance to human groups in that they love one another, play and chat, and even mourn each other. We’re so glad Nam Fon and Pai Lin can now bond and connect with each other!

They’ve been together for three days and are certainly on their way to true friendship.  “We are hopeful they will become life long friends,” WFFT wrote on their Facebook.

We’re so happy that Nam Fon will never have to go back to an abusive elephant camp again, and that she can now live in the company of her dear friend! If you were inspired by WFFT amazing work, visit their website and consider making a donation.

All Image Source: Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand/Facebook