After 25 years of protecting elephants and nature in Thailand, Lek comes across New, a young college dropout who must care for his family’s 55 elephants. Undertaking him as an apprentice, Lek supports New in giving the elephants an abuse-free life with the hope to impart to the next generation the value of all living beings.
In Thailand, the Asian Elephant has been domesticated for many centuries. From the 19th to the late 20th century, thousands of them worked as vital logging machines. After logging was banned in 1989, due to the rapid decline of the country’s forest, these domesticated elephants have since been employed in the tourism industry, carrying visitors on their backs and performing circus shows. However, since Lek Chailert revealed their abusive training in 2003, their lives have been slowly changing in the country.
From a young age, Lek Chailert was taught of the immeasurable
value of all animals and plants at her Khamu ethnic minority village in the deep mountains of Northern Thailand. Ever since leaving her home, Lek has dedicated her life towards animal and nature conservation.
In 2023, Lek built Asia’s first and largest elephant sanctuary, where overworked and abused elephants can live a dignified life, and she pushed to spread her elephant-friendly concept in Thailand’s tourism industry. But evermore fearful of the monsoon floods and artificial forest fires that ravage her elephant sanctuary, Lek begins to focus on securing a more sustainable future.
Lek finds herself taking 22-year old New under her wing. As the eldest brother of 12 siblings, New suddenly found himself responsible for the lives of 55 elephants when his father passed away. Without any experience in taking care of these giant animals, New leaves his college and embarks on a colossal challenge to change his father’s abusive ways and give his elephants a better life.
As Lek guides New in his journey and supports him through all kinds of trials and tribulations including the nursing of an injured elephant and a chaotic family inheritance dispute over the elephants, Lek tries to pass onto New the philosophy that has driven her life’s work: that all living beings have their immeasurable value.
In 2004, when we first moved from Tokyo to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, one of the first sights that shocked us was an elephant performing circus tricks on the side of a busy road. We couldn’t help but feel sorrowful as we saw the eyes of the elephant. But as newly arrived foreigners, it also intrigued us towards the role of Asian Elephants in our new home.