When we asked the locals to direct us to the home of Nay Phai Lao, the famed gru widely known for having caught 80 wild elephants, they shook their heads and told us: “He left the village years ago in sadness to take up farming somewhere else.”Tuoi Tre, No country for elephants: Sunset over a kingdom, Tuoi Tre Online (www.tuoitre.vn)
We tracked him down and went to see Lao. He was an old man, his hair and beard all covered in white, a lonely figure tending the cattle by himself. At 80 he was still robust, his footsteps were firm and his figure stood tall like one of the big trees in the forest. His sad eyes brightened when I asked him to tell stories about trapping wild elephants.
“At 18 I followed other gru’s into the forest to trap wild baby elephants for taming. Elephants in those days were treated like family members and loved by all locals… Now, I can’t bear to see elephants killed. It’s such a sad sight,” two trails of tears started rolling down his cheeks.