This is the heartwarming moment a young elephant plunges into a fast-flowing river to RESCUE her ”drowning” human best friend.
Darrick Thomson, 42, jumped into the swollen 50ft wide river while five-year-old Asian elephant Kham Lha walked on the bank in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The pair had formed an ”inseparable bond” after Kham Lha was rescued from an abusive owner last year and Darrick nursed her back to health.
So when the young cow saw her ”best friend” apparently in trouble shouting for help, she raced through the water to save him.
She rushes through the water as Darrick splashes and cries for help, then gently ushers him to the shore.
The incredible moment was captured on camera to show how strong the bond can be between animals and humans.
Darrick, who is originally from Toronto, Ontario, but moved to northern Thailand to work with elephants, said: ”Kham Lha was in a really bad way when she came to us.
”She had been tied up and forced to undergo cruel training known as crushing to prepare her to work in the tourist industry.
”We freed her and helped her to recover. She became really close to me and we formed a strong bond.
”I went in the river to show just how remarkable the relationship with humans is. And that if you show warmth and kindness to them, they will treat you well, too.”
Crushing is a brutal training method where young elephants are tied up and beaten into submission.
The method is used in Thailand’s elephant tourism industry to make elephants more subdued and safer for holidaymakers to ride.
Such cruelty can cause lifelong scars – but Kham Lha made a quick recovery after being shown round-the-clock care by Darrick and other staff at the Save Elephant Foundation.
She now wonders freely through the protected jungle sanctuary with dozens of other elephants.
A spokesman said: ”We’re all really pleased with Kham Lha’s progress and how well she’s adapted.
”She’s now a happy young elephant. The video shows just how close she is to Darrick and it’s an important lesson to be kind to animals.”
Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, senior wildlife and veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection, said: ”Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm, but the brutal truth is that breaking these animals’ spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn.”