CHIANGRAI – Nestled in the Northern Thailand hills and jungle sits Elephant Nature Park Foundation, a protected reserve for the Asian Elephant. Its founder, Lek Chailert, fell in love with Thai elephants at five years old. A haunting discovery of a severely abused elephant early in her youth broke her heart, compelling her to commit her life to protecting these highly endangered creatures.
Her drive and passion lead to the creation of the park, which is now home to dozens of rescued Asian elephants. Many of the elephants come from the logging industry, where the elephants have been used for transportation of felled trees for generations. However, abusive “mahouts” (an elephant driver or rider) and older elephants being used way past their prime, often result in injured or abused animals – Lek is there to offer them a safe place to recover and live.
Unlike many of the other parks and elephant sanctuaries in the area, Lek doesn’t believe in whips, hooks, or strong discipline. Instead, she spends time with younger elephants to win their trust, showering them with positive affection and reinforcement. Her love for these amazing creatures is apparent — and may just end up saving them.