After spending their lives being exploited on the streets, two elephants have been rescued and given a new lease on life at an elephant sanctuary – and they were escorted to its gates by hundreds of people rallying for their support.

SomBoon is a pregnant 30-year-old elephant who is expected to give birth within the next few months. The other elephant, Sri Nuan, is 50 years old and suffering from digestive problems as a result of a poor diet.

As their rescuers prepared to move the pachyderms to their new home at the Samui Elephant Haven in Thailand earlier this month, they realized just how difficult it would be to move the massive mammals.

Because the elephants had not been on board any form of automotive transportation in two decades, their rescuers were anxious about the creatures becoming panicked and causing harm to the vehicle or its drivers.

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Not to be discouraged, the rescuers simply resolved to walk the animals along the 12-mile (20-kilometer) journey to their new home.

The team embarked on their journey at 6pm and spent the next 10 hours walking the elephants through various villages and roadways. As a safety precaution, the elephants were kept on a chain for the start of the expedition – but as they became calmer and more accustomed to their surroundings, the chains were removed and they were allowed to move freely along the road.

Photo by Diane Silva

The rescuers were not alone on their intrepid journey, either; as they walked, dozens of villagers and tourists joined them in the streets to walk with them in solidarity. Food vendors even exited their stores in order to offer fruit and water to the elephants.

Initially, the entourage was joined by about 60 strangers – but their group steadily swelled in size the longer they walked.

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“It was so exciting, I got goosebumps all over – the hairs just stood up,” said Mango Yordbear, a UK traveler who helped with the rescue. “It was an electric feeling. It was so beautiful.”

The elephants were successfully introduced to their new home at 4AM. Since arriving at the sanctuary, they have already begun making friends with their fellow pachyderms – which is particularly exciting due to how it can be difficult for elephants to form social bonds with new additions to a herd.

(WATCH the heartwarming video below)

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