Founder of Save Elephant Foundation
Saengduen “Lek” Chailert comes from the Khamu hill tribe in northern Thailand. As a young girl, she made a connection with animals and the environment, thanks to her grandfather, who was the village healer. The two would regularly venture into the jungle where she would learn about natural medicine and gain a healthy respect and knowledge not only for the jungle inhabitants, but also plant life.
It was early in her life when Lek met her first elephant, who would lead her down the path to her work later in life as an elephant and environmental advocate. As a young adult, Lek spent much of her life helping animals, often taking time in between her studies at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University to venture into the surrounding jungles to provide natural medical care to elephants in need. During this time, she saw first-hand the plight of Asian elephants. It was then she knew she had to dedicated her life to helping them.
In 1995, she rescued her first elephant, Mae Perm. Then in 2003, Lek received a large donation of land, which became the Elephant Nature Park. Today, she is the founder of Save Elephant Foundation which supports Elephant Nature Park, Surin Project, Journey to Freedom, Thailand Cares, Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia and much more.
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.
She has received recognition for her work, including being honored as one of six “Women Heroes of Global Conservation” in 2010 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of TIME Magazine’s “Heroes of Asia” in 2005, the Humane Society of the USA “Genesis Award” in 2003, and the Ford Foundation “Hero of the Planet” in 2001.