Dozens Of Elephants Set Free As Chairs Used To Carry Tourists Scrapped Over Coronavirus
An elephant camp in Thailand has decided to let its elephants roam free rather than forcing them to carry visitors, after the coronavirus pandemic brought tourism to a halt.
Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, has altered its entire business model as a result of the pandemic, which has forced businesses to close and hindered travelling.
Every day for the past 44 years, the elephants at Maesa have had huge wooden and metal carriages strapped to their backs, on which they would carry tourists. However, now there are none coming to visit the camp, its directors have decided to scrap the cumbersome seats and allow its 78 elephants to roam free.
Camp director Anchalee Kalampichit explained:
Since we entered the business in 1976, riding on the elephants has always been the favourite activity of tourists.
But because the coronavirus has spread there have been fewer tourists and eventually the government ordered us to close, so we have removed the chairs to liberate the elephants.
The camp has decided to get rid of its seats altogether, meaning the huge animals don’t have to worry about getting lumbered with tourists ever again.
Kalampichit said staff wanted to ‘change the style of the place and find more natural ways that the public can enjoy the elephants’.
We will welcome tourists to enjoy learning about the elephants’ ways of life naturally instead of using them to entertain the tourists.
The elephants are now free to explore the grounds, with the camp set to operate as a place for visitors to observe the animals when it reopens.
Kalampichit is determined to keep things running smoothly even without the income from tourists, and to help reduce costs, staff at the camp have taken to planting their own vegetables as a source of food.
The director said:
The cost for taking care of the 78 elephants and 300 staff is five million THB (£130,399) per month. So for now, we have to bear that expense without income from tourists.
But we will not leave anyone behind and will try to take the best care of the elephants for as long as we can. Now we are planting vegetables for the staff to eat as one of the ways we can reduce the expenses.
There are 93 elephant camps of varying size in Chiang Mai, and officials have said 85 of them are facing closure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic unless the situation improves.
Boontha Chailert, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association and the Maetaeng Elephant Park, said hundreds of other elephant centres around Thailand are also facing closure due to the lack of tourism.
Hopefully all the animals at the affected camps will be treated well during the pandemic, and beyond.
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