COVID-19 brought tourism to a halt in Thailand and put tourist elephants in danger of a fate worse than death! Many elephants and their handlers (mahouts) were forced to walk back to their villages. But, at the camps on the route home, there was no food or work. It was heartbreaking to see and even harder to imagine that these gentle elephants would probably be forced back to work in the illegal logging industry once they reached the villages. While elephant rides involve tremendous cruelty, being forced into the logging trade is a ring even lower in the hellish inferno of animal abuse.
The Pandemic Is a Once in a Lifetime Chance to Save Pachyderms!
Facing such urgency, Thailand’s elephant lovers put on their thinking caps, scrambling to come up with a way to keep these innocent elephants from being sold into the unimaginably harsh logging trade. The new non-profit Gentle Giants was born, in partnership with Save Elephant Foundation whose founder, Lek Saengduean Chailert, is a world-renowned conservationist and elephant expert.
On May 3rd, 2020, after walking for 3 days, a herd of 11 elephants reached their village. The tribe welcomed their elephants with open arms and so much love. For many of the elephants, like 7-month-old Lanna, it was their first time in the village. For others, like Mae Jaa who is the eldest elephant of the group, it was returning to a home she had left long ago.
The rescue group started with 11 elephants. In three short months, it was 38. They are trying to bring another 20 elephants in so they won’t be sold to the logging industry. There are hundreds of elephants in need. Many are being sold into the illegal logging business and to Chinese businesses. We must make sure that, when the tourism borders open, none of these elephants are sent to the circus or to beg on the streets. Gentle Giants is creating a beautiful ripple effect; a chain of love. They are not only helping the elephants, but their caretakers, the villages, local farmers, farm pickers, truck drivers, contractors, supply stores, etc.
For just $4 dollars a month, or 50.00 dollars a year, you can sponsor Baby Lanna or any other of the gentle giants. By sponsoring these gentle giants, you are supporting them to remain home and out of the tourist and/or logging industry. Your sponsorship will give these gentle giants the opportunity to stay within the forest roaming free among their own. Each elephant has their own story and personality. Your sponsorship will go towards food, care, medical treatment and their mahout’s wages.
Your sponsorship will include a Sponsorship Certificate, a photo of your sponsored elephant and a Gentle Giants personalized sponsorship badge, which you may use as your social media profile picture. Your sponsorship will keep these Gentle Giants in the forest and their natural habitat. They will be able to enjoy their lives as elephants; roaming free with their herd, their family. Their days of long hours walking under the scorching heat with tourists on their backs will have been left behind. Now, no chains will clank around their feet. You are saving these beautiful Gentle Giants and helping the community coexist and thrive with them. It also makes a great gift!
In 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Lek to Washington, DC to honor her as one of six Women Heroes of Global Conservation. Lek was also named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of Asia for her work in conservation in 2005 and the Ford Foundation’s Hero of the Planet in 2001. Lek has earned honorary degrees from Rajabhat Chiang Mai University. The National Geographic documentary Vanishing Giants, highlighting Lek’s work with the Asian elephant, was recognized by the Humane Society of the United States with the Genesis Award in 2003.
Today, Lek continues to be at the forefront of elephant and other animal rights causes, raising international awareness and encouraging other countries in the region to follow her lead, as well as helping provide sustainable alternatives to local villages. At the same time, she maintains special relationships with the animals she rescues. Most days, she can be found at Elephant Nature Park spending time with the rescued herd.”