‘My life running a Thai elephant sanctuary’ – South Woodford woman

As an up-and-coming merchandise manager for a clothing company, Katherine Connor said she had everything she wanted.

The then 21-year-old, of Fullers Avenue, South Woodford, enjoyed shopping, lunches and Friday nights out with friends. But there was something missing.

So she quit her job and planned a 12-month backpacking trip around the world. It was cut short after just six weeks when she met an elephant at an animal hospital in Thailand where she was volunteering.

It would ultimately change her life.

Katherine, now 30, said: “The elephant, named Boon Lott, reached out to me on an emotional and spiritual level.

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“He made me realise that living in London and working in retail management wasn’t very important and I wasn’t giving anything back to the rest of the world.

“I realised the way I could do that was by creating a safe haven for abused and neglected elephants.

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“I had already bought all the visas and flights but I just threw that all away and stayed in Thailand to learn about elephants.”

Almost 10 years later, Katherine now runs Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, northern Thailand, with husband, Anon Phimmeuan who she met after his elephant was burned in a fire.

“He was equally as passionate about elephants as me and we built the sanctuary together,” she said.

“I employ about 20 members of staff and look after 13 elephants as well as other animals.

“There is no showing or riding here and they just go out into the forest and live their life like they should have lived it from birth.”

Katherine plans to build a veterinary centre at the sanctuary as the nearest one is a seven-hour drive away.

She returned home with her two children, Hope, three, and Noah, one, to help promote a fundraising event which took place on Saturday at Esporta Health Club, Manor Road, Woodford Green.

Mother Evelyn Connor, who runs the charity in England, said: “People came from all over the world to support the event.

“Katherine inspires that kind of following because she is devoted and selfless and puts 100 per cent into what she does.

“I just knew she would do something big with her life.

“It has been a hard struggle for all of us but I am immensely proud she is making a difference in the world. She’s got such a generous heart and it feels like this was always going to happen.

“It difficult at times when her phone doesn’t work and you don’t hear from her but I love the whole thing and it’s taught me so much.”

For more information visit www.blesele.org or www.twitter.com/blesele.

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