When a Parkinson patient meet an elephant.

An elephants reaction to a Parkinson patient.

Parkinson disease is a progressive brain disease. People who have this are missing dopamine in their system. Dopamine is needed to let function the brain properly like ; short term memory, emotions, motor functions of the body like arms and legs. With a short of dopamine like Parkinson patients have, these functions are damaged and will damage over the years gradually more till fully invalid. The result of this is that the patients will loose more and more the ability of empathy, the expression and processing of feelings emotions which make them rigid, emotionless, plain, grumpy even. Physically their arm, leg mostly one side of the body will start to shake (tremor), gradually more over the years, and the mobility will go backwards as their body becomes stiff. The brain has difficulties to send signals to function. Besides that the short term memory is going backwards, symptoms which look a lot like Alzheimer. As Parkinson disease effects another part of the brain than Alzheimer does, it is not the same. Living with a person with Parkinson is like losing that person every day a little more. Some one you know so well becomes someone who you don’t know anymore sometimes who you even don’t like sometimes. At the end they don’t even know themselves anymore, losing their identity.

What will happen when a Parkinson patient meets an elephant ?

Elephants who live wild and free in natural habitat usually never would meet a human being. Humans are their main enemy, so elephants have no reason at all to be near humans. For their safety it is better to stay the hell away from humans as far as possible.

There are few exceptions when the past, the present and/or the future of elephants lay in hands of humans. At orphanages like DSWT . Wild is Life Grand Zimbabwe the future of the elephants lay in the hands for dedicated humans who raise them till fully independent, wild living elephants, while the cause of them being an orphans is caused too by humans. In Asia many elephants face lifetime suffering cruelty in hands of humans. When lucky under circumstances they are saved and brought to a sanctuary like ENP. In the sanctuary their future is too in hands of dedicated people who take care for them with love.

To take elephants from an lifetime existence in hell is one thing. To get this hell out of the elephants mind is another challenge. Almost all rescued elephants have PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) due to the torture they have endured in hands of human. The PTSS is besides all other handicaps and scars they have on their bodies and souls. Many rescued elephants don’t even know how to live under natural circumstances in a herd and/or how to behave like elephants among each other should do in the first place.

There is one thing all elephants still do naturally and that is the use of their senses. The capability to screen their environment with the use of their ears, trunk, their feet who feel vibrations, their use of their body and mind. They way they communicate, the way they collect and process information is all still there.

Despite all abuse and harsh life they have endured the elephants have embraced their new home in sanctuary and some of them seem to have forgiven, as far as possible under circumstances, people in general, or they have discovered that not all humans are abusers. Some elephants have an open mind, they are curious to meet others, including some people while others prefer their privacy as far as possible from humans, which is the most natural behavior.

In Elephant Nature Park a small group of 5 people was having a tour, guided by Jodi Thomas. The Parkinson patient was in the back of the group. He didn’t feel the need to step in front and needed all energy to keep up the pace.  Blind Jokia and her best friend Mae Perm came along for a friendly meet and greet. Jokia moved further but Mae Perm seemed to be very interested and kept hanging around the small group of people. Nobody touched the elephants as it must be the decision of the elephants willing to be touched and not the humans decision.  Mae Perm was the most caring elephant ever. Besides best friend she was Jokia’s eyes and caregiver, her entire world even.

Mae Perm and Jokia.JPG
Jokia and Mae Perm 2014

Mae Perm was mainly interested in the last person standing in the back of the small group and walked around the other people to him. With her trunk she screened him carefully head till toe, left no spot untouched, where as the parkinson patient didn’t express hardly any emotion. Mae Perm investigated and touched the right arm, the arm with the tremor. She felt the light shaking of the arm. At that point she knew… she knew… whatever was going on in her mind, Mae Perm definitely knew her way what was wrong or at least THAT there was something different with this person.

The next thing happened was that Mae Perm showed her empathy, Mae Perm reached out gently and put her trunk around the neck of the parkinson patient to hug him, to hold him for a while. This was her way to tell him she knew and that everything was all right.

That Mae Perm’s reaction was no exception was proven when Kabu, Mae Pon and Pookie met the Parkinson patient. Where Kabu met the Parkinson patient for the first time, she was rescued just weeks ago and still recovering and settling in her new home, she was very caring to the parkinson patient and guided him.

ENP 2015 2078.JPG
Kabu with Parkinson patient
ENP 2015 2077.JPG
Kabu with Parkinson patient

Pookie started following him. Mae Pon was grieving the loss of her baby Hansa. Despite her own pain and sadness, she reached out to him same way Pookie did.

ENP 2015 1651.JPG
Pookie started to follow

Kabu, Pookie and Mae Pon were all very interested in him. All investigated him same way like Mae Perm did; his body, the tremor. Just like Mae Perm all had same caring reaction after their research. They seem to want to take care of him as they followed him. They let him touch them as well. All opened up their heart to them.  They reached out him as he did not reach out so much at all.

I feel very privileged to have been part of this, to have been and to be a witness of these special heartwarming moments; to see an elephants answer on a Parkinson patient

The elephants involved knew and know their own way that he has Parkinson and is a more vulnerable person. To have this privilege, to be a witness of this very special elephant behavior is an exception, only possible because the elephants here have a history with humans and live in a sanctuary.




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  1. linda parks schreef:

    There`s a lot of deep things concerning mind deceases that are unknown to professionals . Music is one that has been discovered . If the patients have a special song from back before they changed . The patient sang along with the music and seems as normal as can be .


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