It’s not often that you get to see one of your true heroes in action, so having the chance to go to the London premier of a film based on the work of my only living hero was a day that I will hold in my heart forever.
You might remember my earlier articles about Lek Chailert and her tireless efforts to save the Asian elephant. Having devoted her life to the plight of abused elephants, she conceived, built and developed Asia’s most highly regarded wild animal rescue and sanctuary (Elephant Nature Park). I volunteered at ENP for a week last year, and it changed me forever. I recommend it to everyone I meet. It has brought me more joy than any single thing I’ve ever done in my life.
As the founder of ENP, Lek is now the focus of a new film that feels more like a nail-biting adventure than a documentary. The movie debuted very recently — In fact, it is hitting the United States right about now. (And the fact that Lek was at the private party with me before the premier — and actually remembered me, will keep my soul floating for weeks.).
As I have said before on many occasions, “Once you have seen an elephant just being an elephant…you never want them to do anything else.” Well, there is finally a way for you to experience that beauty for yourself. There is finally a film that makes you feel like you are there with Lek…running a life-or-death rescue.
“Love & Bananas” focuses on one 70-year old, partially blind elephant named Noi Nah and on Lek’s relentless efforts to save her life. If they can get her safely to Elephant Nature Park, she’ll be able to live out the rest of her days without chains — in a place filled with love and sunshine.
I often refer to Lek Chailert as the “biggest” tiny person I ever met. At just under five feet tall and about 80 pounds, she has gone toe-to-toe with criminals, animal abusers, government bureaucracies and tourism conglomerates. She’s done all of this to defend wildlife in general — and Asian elephants in particular.
Despite so many arrests that she’s spent half her life in and out of court…despite almost constant death threats…despite the physical, financial and emotional harassment by those who make their money out of abusing elephants for tourist side shows and logging…
Despite all this, Lek Chailert has managed to rehabilitate hundreds of elephants. She has healed not only the broken bodies of these magnificent animals, but their spirits as well. Hundreds of frightened and abused elephants have blossomed under her fierce determination and gentle care. Many of these elephants have been at the brink of death when they were rescued, some have killed humans in the past while attempting to escape their tortured existence. Lek has utterly changed them through her simple belief that love cures all ills.
The title of the film, “Love & Bananas” comes from Lek’s philosophy on elephant rehabilitation. It’s her belief that all elephants can be rehabilitated, no matter the mental issues, no matter the abuse and fear. All elephants can be rehabilitated through a combination of love…and bananas.
It is through Lek’s kindness and compassion for the abusers that she is able to change their behavior. She understands that the situation is complicated, that the abusers are doing what they feel they have to in order to feed their families. So she patiently educates them on other ways to make money from elephants without harming them.
Lek has seen things that can never be unseen, and she has witnessed them all without judgment or hatred. Rather than simply screaming in the dark, she is hoping to find a way to convince the abusers to show more compassion through painstaking education. In some cases, this education requires multiple visits over the course of several years — in the hope that eventually something will click, and the abusers will see a better way.
The thing that makes me love Lek with all my heart…love her to the point of weeping when I think about her, is that she makes these rescue trips over and over again, knowing the elephants that the abusers give up are the ones most likely to die. Still, she moves heaven and earth to rescue each one. She knows that she can’t change the plight of all animals everywhere, but for the one animal she’s rescuing or rehabilitating that day, she has changed one life forever…And for her, that’s all that matters.
This film will make you believe that anything is possible with just a little bit of love and compassion. It will send your spirit soaring. And who doesn’t need a little bit of that these days?
Please look for this documentary at an art house cinema near you. Take a friend…make a day of it. Look for it on Youtube or Netflix or Amazon…even public television. Do yourself a favor and go on an adventure vacation with Lek Chailert to rescue an elephant, and remember…Anything can be accomplished with love…and bananas.
NOTES: If you’d like to see a trailer from the film “Love & Bananas” please click here. https://youtu.be/IitDac8aUJo
If you’d like to learn more about Elephant Nature Park to see how you could help these magnificent creatures, please click here. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org
If you have 30 seconds to sign a petition to Save the Asian Elephant please go click here. https://stae.org
If you’d like to see why Elephant Nature Park is thought of as the Adventure Trip of a Lifetime, and given five stars by almost 10,000 people on TripAdvisor, please click here to read reviews. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g293917-d601884-Reviews-Elephant_Nature_Park-Chiang_Mai.html