elephant reunion

Viral vid of Toronto firefighter reunited with elephants will warm the coldest of hearts

A Toronto firefighter-turned elephant caretaker has gone viral on social media for a heartwarming video showing the man reunited with a herd of the majestic animals after spending over a year apart.

After leaving a career fighting fires in Canada's largest city, Darrick Thomson moved from Toronto to Thailand, putting the fast-paced world of emergency response behind him to run an elephant sanctuary with his wife Lek.

Known as Elephant Nature Park, the sanctuary in Chiang Mai Province is home to over 100 of the giants, known for their ability to forge lasting connections with humans. And the connection these animals share with Thomson is evident in the viral video of an especially wholesome moment captured in early December.

Thomson had just spent 14 months apart from the elephants, the Toronto Star reporting that during that time, he set up an enclosure for an elephant rescued in Pakistan and attended to his ill father in Canada.

That rescued elephant was none other than "the world's loneliest elephant," Kaavan, who had spent 35 years living alone in a zoo in Pakistan before a campaign — assisted by autotune pioneer Cher — helped bring him to a sanctuary in Cambodia.

When he returned to Thailand on Dec. 5, he was greeted by the herd of elephants, and it's pretty apparent from the video that the animals not only remembered their keeper, but showed genuine excitement and affection as they charged through the Mae Taeng river to meet Thomson.

Everything about the video is rewarding, from the elephants' clumsily running through the river, excitedly trumpeting, to their eventual surrounding of Thomson to welcome him back to the herd.

This isn't the first instance of Elephant Nature Park gaining attention for touching pachyderm-related content, the sanctuary's YouTube channel amassing almost 350 million views and over half a million subscribers through similar uplifting videos.

They've also done great things for the elephants that call the sanctuary home, taking an education and conservation approach that differs from many of the ethically-questionable elephant tourism attractions in Thailand. It's one of the few spots in the country given the okay by elephant conservation organizations.

It may not be the first viral video from Elephant Nature Park, but it's certainly getting the sanctuary some widespread attention online. The viral tweet has generated plenty of reaction, including a few moving facts and anecdotes about these ultra-intelligent animals.

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