Thai park sets elephants free for the first time

Posted by Imogen Searra on 27 March 2020

As a result of the coronavirus, tourism around the globe has stuttered to halt. In Chiang Mai, an elephant park closed its doors on Monday 23 March as a result of a drastic drop in tourist numbers. The owner decided to allow the elephants to roam free for the first time.

Anchalee Kalampichit, the owner of Maesa Elephant Camp spoke to CNN and said visitor numbers had decreased from ‘hundreds’ to lower than 20. This drove the decision to free the 78 elephants from their chains.

Kalampichit explained that in future, the park will no longer force elephants to perform tricks or allow tourist rides. Instead, the park will be revamped into an educational facility, where humans can learn about these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

 

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The park was opened by Kalampichit’s father in the ’70s and has been operating as an elephant park ride facility since. She said that the decision to convert the park into an educational facility was made last year after taking her staff to visit an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand. The coronavirus outbreak and its effect on tourism has helped put this plan in motion.

Kalampichit explained to CNN: ‘I didn’t know what else to do in the camp instead of shows and elephant riding. I talked to one lady who is well known for saving elephants and nature at the Elephant Nature Park… she lets the elephants go around unchained. We want to do the same thing at Maesa Elephant Camp instead of riding.’ She continued in saying that for many of the elephants, this would be their first time not having a seat strapped to their back.

The practice of elephant rides in Thailand have been met with international outcry from animal rights groups to cease the cruel and unnatural activity. Often, these animals live in terrible conditions, where they are beaten with hooks into submission. Mothers are torn away form their babies and are often kept hungry in order to comply. Food is used as a tool to get the elephants to pose for pictures and to perform tricks.

Image: Unsplash

 

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