It all started with a letter from a boy of 9 to a wildlife photographer in an appeal to “raise money for the elephant I am going to save”. For some children that may have been a daunting task. But for the likes of a Te Awamutu New Zealand boy anything was possible if you set your mind to it.
So, after having visited the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, Jack Lanting** got creative and he lost no time in organizing fundraisers ( $ 20,000 New Zealand dollars for his first effort and $16,000 New Zealand dollars in a joint effort the second time around ) for his elephant.
All of this from a Waikato student who had never laid eyes on an elephant let alone processed the concept of the word “torture” in his mind.
** Jack’s original vision of going on holiday was to watch the Asian elephants of Thailand performing stunts and “circus acts,” which was then “Jack’s dream” But after much internet research Jack’s parents (especially his mom Viv Lanting who has encouraged her son and been by his side from the beginning) were educated to the reality of how much torture and abuse circus / performing elephants, trekking / working elephants & festival / street elephants are forced to endure ( at the hand of their owners / mahouts ) every single day. These elephants are literally cowering at the sight of their abusive humans (mahouts/owners). These elephants have actually collapsed and died on the pavement from all of the neglect (hunger ) and suffering ( left alone & chained ) they are ultimately forced to repress. (See photos and story of Jack’s experience on one visit to Thailand here )
Wise beyond his years this young man, Jack Lanting, has always had a love for elephants and he has never known fear around such majestic animals.
Lek Chailert, of Elephant Nature Park, who accompanied Jack on his mission to save two of Thailand’s trekking elephants, remarked on his gentle spirit. “Jack thinks about others, he is a good boy. He has a beautiful heart. I can see that the beauty comes from the inside and he has so much care for the animals.”
It is not surprising that Jack was influenced by his first love Lily. “I stayed at the Elephant Nature Park and I helped look after saved elephants. I loved Lily and fed her and washed her in the river. I loved so Lily so much.”
So when Lily became the purpose behind Jack’s crusade, behind Jack Lansing’s “passion” it just seemed right. That was when he knew in his heart he had to help care for and save elephants.
Jack named his first rescued elephant Kwan Jai (“Beloved” in Thai). She worked in trekking & logging. Even in the short time the aging (“in her 70’s” )and ailing elephant got to spend at the Elephant Nature Park, ”in freedom and dignity,” (she passed away with Jack by her side, but that is another story) she knew that this New Zealand boy had loved her and understood her and truly cared.
Sook Sai’s (meaning “ pure happiness ”) “first steps to freedom” at the Elephant Nature Park came after the 50 year old elephant rode in the ENP rescue truck, alongside Jack and fellow rescuer Auckland educator Tracey Hand. Although much more wounded (both emotionally and physically) than Kwan Jai, that elephant knew and responded to the young man who had saved her.
If Jack Lanting’s new dreams become a reality, and the future looks so bright for this wise, compassionate and tenacious young person, then our elephants have found a new hope for their future (and friend). For Jack has begun to take on a mission not many grown men could accomplish.
(He has plans to open his own elephant sanctuary along with his mom in the “tourist area of Phuket” Thailand and to “become an elephant specialist vet” ) And don’t forget Jack, we are all awaiting the celebration of your published elephant story (see excerpts of Jack Lanting’s unpublished book here )
In the meantime Jack’s story, along with his elephants’ stories, continues.
Brilliant, Jack. Our elephants could not have chosen a better candidate if they had elected you themselves and when one thinks about it maybe they did. Yes, maybe they did.
Photo credit: Waikato Times
For photos of Sook Sai see Elephant Of The Week : Sook Sai
See video interview of Jack here “If You Can Dream It You Can Achieve It”
See YouTube video of “When I Was Rescued The Elephant” Sook Sai
Hear Jack Lanting on the radio interview “ A Passion For Elephants “ with Radio New Zealand National
Viv Lanting Facebook
Grant Marcus Photography 9 year old Jack Lanting wrote to Grant to use his photographs of eles to help raise funds to save an elephant.
This is a beautifully written article on animalsvoice.co.nz and has excerpts from Jack’s unpublished book.
One of Jack’s original fundraising campaigns (now closed) on cause.com