Ashley Bell's Blog: Meet the Elephants Who Captured My Heart
03/08/2013 AT 02:00 PM EST
Two majestic creatures, elephants Kahm Lin and Arun Reah, whom she recently met on a trip to Cambodia, were saved from an illegal logging facility and now reside at The Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
In her second PEOPLE.com blog, Bell talks about the documentary she's making about these two gentle giants.
You can find Bell on Twitter @OfficialAshBell.
All my life I've had the privilege of calling animals my friends. Growing up, I've always been surrounded by rescue dogs and cats. Animal rescuers have always been my heroes.
About 10 years ago, a close family friend, L.A.-based attorney David Casselman, received one million acres of Cambodian jungle to turn into a wildlife animal sanctuary. It was donated to him by the Cambodian Minister of Interior to become The Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
For 10 years Casselman has worked toward relocating and rescuing service elephants – from zoos, circuses, logging facilities, or those used for tourist rides – to come to the sanctuary. Several months ago, he received a call from Lek Chailert, founder of the famous Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, saying that they had rescued two elephants from an illegal logging facility and were bringing them to The Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
I decided then and there that I would make a documentary about this story. In January, I teamed up with Change for Balance Productions and flew to Cambodia to greet these majestic gentle giants. We awoke at 4 a.m. to spend sunrise walking through the dense jungle with Kahm Lin and Arun Reah, the two unchained, beautiful gray ladies that had been captives for the majority of their lives.
Chailert explained that there are no more wild Asian elephants left in Cambodia. She also told us that the standard mantra for training an elephant has always been, "To train an elephant, you have to break the elephant." You break an elephant by breaking his spirit through the use of cruel implements like the bull hook, bamboo or other tools of punishment.
Contrary to that approach, Chailert has established a hard-and-fast rule at the sanctuary: No bull hooks or any other cruel training tools will be used. Instead, she has proven that bananas and love will build the bond between man and elephant. Chailert and Casselman have now been added to my list of heroes.
Hugging an elephant is like leaning against a warm gray building with calloused skin and little wiry hairs. If you listen very carefully you can hear that great heart beating.
To learn about the sanctuary visit its website, and for more information, videos, and updates on my documentary, please visit my official website.