Good news: Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, has been giving rides to tourists for 44 years, and around end-March 2020 was the first time that these elephants did not wake up to getting these large metal and wooden carriages strapped on their backs.
Tourism has annihilated, and with no end in sight, many businesses are going to suffer, unfortunately. Yet, for the elephants, it is fantastic news, and of course, the ban by the government to shut these types of companies.
The elephants had to endure years of carrying tourists on their backs. Since no or few tourists will be visiting Maesa Elephant Camp, the directors have decided to scrap the seats. Around 78 elephants are allowed to roam free now.
Camp director Anchalee Kalampichit said since 1976 it has been a favorite for tourists to ride on the elephant’s backs. The company is now going to change its business to allow the elephants to be free on the grounds, and they will open for visitors to observe the animals.
More good news is that the tourists will be welcome to visit and learn about the elephant ways of life, instead of entertaining the tourists.
Apparently, the cost of taking care of 78 elephants and 300 staff is approximately five million THB (130,399GBP) per month, which is going to be hard for the camp to cope with no income coming from tourists.
For now, they are not leaving anyone behind. The camp is going to take great care of the elephants as best as they can under the circumstances. They are even planting vegetables for the staff to eat, which will help reduce the expenses.
President, Boontha Chailert, of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association and the Maetaeng Elephant Park said that other centers around Thailand are facing closure due to lack of tourism.
It is believed that in Chiang Mai, there are about 93 elephant camps are varying in size. About 85 of them are facing closure due to the situation unless it improves.
In the US, the Humane Society of the US and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, amongst others, are against riding elephants because of the abuse they undergo when taught to carry people, which is unseen by tourists. There are also safety concerns for the people elephants carry.
The brutal process of conditioning the elephants are known as ‘crushing the spirit,’ which is to ensure they are safe around humans, and usually, the process starts with baby elephants.
Carrying one adult can cause the elephant pain and probably over time, spinal injury.