Profiles – Lek Chailert
kim January 14, 2014
ASIA · CONSERVATION & ACTIVISM · FIELD RECORDINGS · PROFILES
I met Lek just after the Tsunami in Dec. 2004. When she exposed me to the atrocities in Burma and Thailand I pledged to return and make a film with her to share to the potential travelers to thailand. And that we did. Lek has since opened two new sanctuaries and engages the government and the public on a daily basis. She deserves global recognition for her relentless pressure on the industry and compassionate public outreach. Thailand has come a long way since 2004 and a lot of that can be attributed to this one woman and her small team of dedicated staff and volunteers changing lives of people and animals in SE Asia.
When visitors come here I want them to leave with the truth and go tell other people that the elephants here are just a few percent of the elephants that need to be rescued from abuse. I want them to think, “How many other elephants are still out there suffering and dying, working until the day they fall down and die from exhaustion?” I want them to educate others and tell people that it’s time for humans to be more kind to other living creatures.
By 6pm sharp on our second day at Elephant Nature Park we had all filed into the assembly room and were anxiously waiting for Sangduen “Lek” Chailert – the woman who had inspired all of us to come here from around the globe and volunteer to shovel elephant poop and wield machetes in the hot, humid Thailand climate. The anticipation was so high it felt like we were waiting for a rock star. And Lek is a rock star of sorts. Or, as Craig so aptly put it, “Punk rock, full-on!” She has earned global respect for her tireless work rescuing abused elephants and providing them with a life free of abuse, as well as educating tourists about the horrors of phajaan, and elephant owners on better ways to care for their charges. She’s collaborated on laws that would provide protections for elephants and is an open and outspoken supporter of rights for all animals. She has won international awards and been featured in articles and documentaries seen around the world.