Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai has decided to change the direction of their business model thanks to a reduction of tourists because of COVID-19.
Tourists often shun places that offer elephant riding but that is exactly how Maesa has made their living for the past 44 years. Each day the elephants would have large seats strapped to their backs for carrying tourists. The staff and directors of the camp wanted to find a more natural way for people and tourists to enjoy the elephants when this is all over, so they scrapped the heavy chairs and carriages for good and allowed all 78 of their elephants to roam free.
According to Camp Director, Anchalee Kalampichit, Maesa has been in the business of elephant riding since 1976. Riding elephants has always been a favoured thing to do by tourists. Because of the coronavirus, however, they have decided to remove the chairs and set the elephants free. A video from ViralPress captured the staff packing up their chairs for a final time. This was the first time in 44 years that the elephants did not have to be saddled up for tourists.
Maesa plans to re-open after the virus with a camp that will allow tourists and visitors to enjoy learning about the animals while observing them in their natural habitat instead of using them for entertainment and rides.
The camp spends roughly five million THB per month to take care of their 78 elephants and 300 staff. In an effort to keep costs low during the virus, many of the staff have begun planting their own vegetables for food.
Chiang Mai has roughly 93 elephant camps, 85 of which officials say are at risk of permanent closure unless the coronavirus pandemic significantly improves and tourists return.