At a fork in the road, our guide points to the right. “That’s the main road there,” he says. “We’ll go on this smaller road, deep into the jungle.” A glance to the left reveals a narrow, unpaved track, which he tells us is used primarily by logging trucks. It’s the dry season in Myanmar, and dead leaves hang like bats above us. The truck’s idling motor blends with the cacophony of insects.
Photos: Jennifer Hile.
I’m sitting next to one of Asia’s most dedicated elephant conservationists, Sangduan “Lek” Chailert. In 1995, Lek sold her home and car, using the proceeds to start the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary in her native Thailand. She also runs a program called Jumbo Express, bringing free medical care to the animals and their owners in the countryside.
Lek’s nickname means “little.” She barely tops five feet, and looks to weigh around 100 pounds — yet she’s spent her adult life throwing a shoulder against the monumental downhill slide of Asian elephants. Three years earlier, I had made a do... Read more