A groundbreaking documentary from Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation, exposes the truth behind the elephant tourism industry.
Lek is a world-renowned Asian elephant conservationist and TIME Magazine’s Hero of Asia, and the founder of Elephant Nature Park. Her movie is called Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story, directed by American filmmaker Ashley Bell. This film chronicles Lek and Ashley’s journey as they embark on a daring mission 480 miles across Thailand to rescue a 70-year old trekking elephant and bring her to freedom at the sanctuary.
We often hear about African elephants slaughtered for their ivory, but sadly the plight of the Asian elephant has been largely overlooked. The Asian elephants are struggling for survival and their entire species is being decimated as their natural habitat is destroyed for human development.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, thousands of Asian elephants are suffering in captivity around the world. They are the elephants most commonly used as tourist attractions and held captive in substandard zoos, abused in circuses, and exploited for elephant rides.
Love & Bananas aims to bring awareness to the plight of the Asian elephant by exposing the cruel secret training method that nearly every captive elephant endures to become a service animal. The Asian ritual known as Pajan, or The Crush Box, is a brutal process that subjects the elephants to extreme pain, torture, and deprivation. Although the documentary does not show the entire ritual in detail, they do want everyone to be aware that this training process is still rampant throughout Asia.
The greater mission of Love & Bananas is to open people’s hearts and minds to the suffering of all elephants in the tourism industry. Lek Chailert believes that the key to saving Asian elephants is education. This documentary aims to ignite a new way of thinking about this species and shows what can be done to prevent their extinction.
Please remember to be a responsible traveller; it is always best to view animals in the wild or volunteer at a real sanctuary. Keep in mind that there are many fake sanctuaries, rescues, and orphanages popping up throughout Asia. If you ever see an animal chained up, that is a huge red flag that there is abuse and cruelty going on. Remember that a true sanctuary would never keep any animals in chains.
And please, wherever you go and whatever you do, please do not ride elephants anywhere in the world. Ever.
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Article by Dobi Finley
Dobi Finley writes to bring more awareness to the plight of animals worldwide and to shine a light on the individuals and nonprofits who are on the front-lines every day fighting the good fight. With a goal to awaken sleeping hearts towards more compassion for animals, she strives to be a voice for all of those whose stories are yet to be told.