On August 19 I journeyed north of Chiang Mai to the Elephant Nature Park, which was founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert in 1995. The ENP is basically a sanctuary for elephants Lek and her staff rescue from logging camps, trekking camps, villagers that find an orphaned elephant but cannot care for them, and sometimes even from begging on the street.
Visitors and volunteers pay to take care of the elephants in the idyllic setting at the base of lush mountains, which can mean anything from preparing baskets of food for the 33 elephants that call ENP home to feeding them, bathing them, or cutting grass with machetes.
Before I sat down to interview her, I had a ground-level view of Lek interacting with her herd of elephants, which include 2 babies. At one point, I was literally in the middle of the herd—elephants all around me—filming Lek scratch the backs and bellies of the baby elephants while their mothers had lunch nearby. For a split second I thought, one sudden move and I’ll be trampled; but the footage was amazing!
During her interview, Lek explained that her vision is to educate the mahouts (elephant caretakers), tourists and her government to take better care of the country’s symbol, by providing an alternative to work camps and begging. For more information, please visit http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/index.htm
Producer, Writer and Director, The Eyes of Thailand