In January 2007, I had the great fun of ushering in the New Year in Thailand where I had traveled to meet and work with Lek Chailert at her elephant sanctuary, The Elephant Nature Park. I was part of a group, The Power of One, organized by Juelle and Donovan Wilkins, whose vision was to teach young kids that they have the power to make a difference in the world. It was an incredible experience to be with American and Thai young people as they learned about each other’s cultures and values, all the while learning about elephants and their magnificence, beauty and, very sadly, how much they suffer in a culture where they are domesticated.

Lek has rescued over 200 elephants! They all have horrendous stories to tell. Many of them have scars from beatings and dagger wounds. When she was 5 years old, Lek’s family was given an elephant. So, she has grown up with elephants, knows them intimately and is totally committed to protecting them from the horrendous torture of the “pajaan”, the Crushing Box. She is teaching Thai mahouts (people who are keepers of elephants) that they can use love and kindness to train elephants.

The Crushing Box is a centuries old “training” method that breaks the spirit of elephants. It is used throughout Asia and some parts of Africa. It is so cruel and painful that 40% of the elephants die from it. Another 40% go crazy. Some will even commit suicide by stepping on their trunk (to suffocate themselves) or jumping over a cliff. When people ride elephants or watch them perform, they unknowingly participate in the cruelty done to elephants.

View from my hut

Going on a stroll with an elephant. What a thrill!

The Crushing Box

This video contains disturbing images of animal abuse. Viewer discretion is advised.

Feeding bananas to an elephant, which they eat whole!

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