Sangduen Lek Chailert was born in a small hill tribe village of Baan Lao, north of Chiang Mai Thailand. Lek has dedicated her life to the conservation of one of the most magnificent and beautiful creatures of the world, elephants. Since 1996, she has rescued more than 200 abandoned and injured elephants in Thailand as well as in neighbouring countries. To date, there are lesser than 3000 elephants living freely in the forests of Thailand and 4000 being held captive.
Lek started to love elephants at a very young age with the influence of her grandfather, who was a traditional healer who not only helped the people of his community but also sick and injured animals in his village. Growing up, Lek helped her grandfather with his work and she learnt to heal and care for animals.
With Lek’s love for elephants as well as knowing that they are an endangered species in Thailand, she began advocating for the rights and welfare of elephants in Thailand. She founded Save Elephant Foundation and together with her team, she works endlessly to protect elephants all across Asia.
Lek was invited to Washington, DC in 2010 and honored by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as one of six Women Heroes of Global Conservation.
She was also 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.
She has earned honorary degrees from Rajabhat Chiang Mai University.
The National Geographic documentary Vanishing Giants, highlighting Lek’s work with the Asian elephant, was recognized by the Humane Society of the United States with the Genesis Award in 2003.