Elephant rescues in Thailand are rare, unpredictable and often life-threatening. After waiting over 2 years, actor/director Ashley Bell and a team of elephant rescuers led by world-renowned Asian elephant conservationist and TIME Magazine’s Hero of Asia, Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, embark on a daring mission to rescue Noi Na, a 70-year old captive, partially blind trekking elephant and bring her 500 miles across Thailand to freedom. African elephants are slaughtered for their ivory, but sadly the plight of the Asian Elephant has been completely overlooked even though they are the elephant we are most familiar with in zoos, circuses and elephant rides.
Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story exposes the cruel secret that every Asian elephant has had to endure to become a service animal: a process known as Pajan, aka The Crush Box. As the documentary unfolds the audience learns that there’s no need to abuse an elephant to control it, you can motivate an elephant to follow your lead simply with love and bananas. Love & Bananas will hopefully provide a solution to keeping this species alive. The film ignites a sense of hope while exposing the plight of Asian elephants and the people who work tirelessly to save them.
Lek Chailert was born 1961 in a small hill tribe village of Baan Lao, two hours north of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Her grandfather was a traditional shaman healer who not only helped people of his community but also on occasion the village’s sick or injured animals. Her grandfather’s work allowed Lek sometimes participate in this animal healing. It is here she discovered that all animals strive to live well and Lek became determined to work in the field of animal welfare.
With a love and respect for her country’s national symbol and the knowledge that they were becoming endangered, Lek began advocating for the rights and welfare of Asian elephants. In an industry steeped in tradition, advocating for a change in the treatment of wild Asian elephants has not been an easy battle for Lek. However, with hard work and determination, her voice is now internationally recognized. In addition to several documentaries produced by National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC, Lek has also won many honorary awards and her efforts are known the world over.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Lek to Washington, DC in 2010 to honor her as one of six Women Heroes of Global Conservation. But, the accolades do not end there. Lek was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of Asia for her work in conservation in 2005 and the Ford Foundation’s “Hero of the Planet” in 2001.