Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Poacher Transformed

Khao Sok, Thailand

Judging by the way he moved through the rainforest of southern Thailand, there was no doubting the rumour that he was once a formidable poacher. Now a guide to jungle life, Nit gives not only a powerful nature lesson, he embodies how travellers can bring to rural communities stability and pride.

Anisak ‘Nit’ Chanyoo grew naturally into the role of a master tracker- but his transition from poacher to nature guide was less conventional. Like so many Thai villagers in the 1980s, the temptation to go to the jungle to poach the abundant wildlife was too great to resist. Over years he illegally killed tigers, parrots and gibbons from the forest out his back door, but Nit’s specialty was as an ivory poacher. To acquire that, Nit hunted Thailand’s most formidable animal- the asian elephant.

Hunting elephants is a time consuming exercise of jungle endurance. It is through this that he earned a doctoral equivalent in jungle knowledge. It was also while out hunting that Nit experienced a transformative sight.

While tracking a herd of known elephants he noticed that the old and familiar matriarch was struggling but not falling behind as she was being assisted by other members of the herd. Nit’s thoughts turned to his very own mother, ironically suffering through an ailment of her own back in the village. He was shamed by the elephant’s compassion.

Nit didn’t take an elephant that day, nor did he ever poach again. Instead he shifted his skills to benefit the natural world and has since shared lessons of the jungle with those traveling to the rainforests of Khao Sok.

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