When I arrived, I had no idea what I was in for. Sure, I knew I would see elephants and do some work. But what I have experienced goes so much deeper. Upon first glance, ENP looks like a small city. And, in reality, it is. It’s one of the largest single employers in the region. Families all work here, the kids all go to school in a nearby village and everyone just makes this work. Trust me, there’s a lot of work. It’s like a well-oiled machine, day in and day out. It’s clean and peaceful and there are tourists who come for the day or for the week to feel like they are part of something bigger (including me).
What you don’t know is that even though many of the elephants are near death upon arrival, Lek and her team are able to provide peace and solace for elephants for years and years to come. Last night, she told us about an elephant near death (he had been given about a week to live) she was trying to rescue. The owner was insisting that Lek pay $10,000 US, and after some stern negotiations, she was able to acquire him (and a female and her baby) for $3,500 US. She brought the bull to ENP where he proceeded to live an additional 7 years in peace before he passed away at the age of about 90. Lek says that she doesn’t care if she has them for 1 day, 7 days, one month or 10 years. Every moment that she can give them peace is worth her fight.
When an elephant is nearing the end of their life here, they will choose where they want to be laid to rest. She is with each one when they pass and then she plants a tree to remember them. Each tree is then fenced in as a memorial for the elephant.
ENP is like elephant heaven and the religion is love.