We were blessed to meet Lek, the founder of the The Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand while we were visiting. Lek is a short woman with a huge heart. She grew up in the hills of Thailand, born into a hill tribe who were not recognized as Thai citizens. Her grandfather gave her an elephant as a child and she took care of this elephant until it passed away years later. The elephant, Tongkum, was her 'baby'. When it was time for her to graduate high school she went to her mother and told her she did not wish to go to college but instead she wished to save the Thai elephants from extinction and man's hands. She would be the first person in her family to go to school and to college. Her mother told her to get her education first, then she could follow her dreams of helping the elephants. Lek believes that elephants weren't put on this earth to work for people. They are not here to be ridden on by tourists, taught to beg in streets for money for their owners, or to help loggers carry wood. After graduating from college she met a young man from Texas. He had just come into some money and she asked him if he would help her buy land and use it as a refuge for a few elephants that have been abused. Several days later she received a check and from there her dream started to take shape.
When we met her she was on her way up north to help save a baby elephant. Unfortunately elephants are a 'hot' commodity and owners want a hefty price for them. Some cannot be saved because they want to much for them. On the day we left we got to spend more time with Lek and she shared with us several wonderful stories on how she, herself, saved several of these animals and how she strives to help change the way they treated.
A small bio can be found on one of their websites.