• Don Lichterman

Jahn, Ellie, Chiang Mai, Zimbabwe, Maesa Elephant Camp & What You Can Do in the Elephant in the Room

Dozens of Elephants Enjoy First day Without Wooden Carriages Strapped to Their Backs

Following years of hardship and misery, dozens of elephants at the Maesa elephant camp in Thailand have been freed from the burden of carrying heavy wooden and metal chairs on their backs.


With coronavirus having wiped out the tourist trade, the 78 elephants at the camp in Chiang Mai have finally been set free after having been forced to give daily rides to tourists in the burning heat for years.


Elephant rides are completely unnecessary and cause immense suffering to the animals, who are often prodded with bullhooks and develop lasting physical complications due to the relentless work they are made to do, sometimes working 18 or more hours a day.

The elephants at Maesa elephant camp before they were set free from their burden of carrying tourists in the blazing heat (Image Credit: Maesa elephant camp)


This “tourist activity” has been going on for 44 years at the camp, but now, the Thai Government has ordered it to stop due to the COVID-19 crisis.


Thankfully the change will not be temporary, and the elephants are now allowed to walk freely around the camp. The focus of the business has supposedly changed too, according to camp director Anchalee Kalampichit, who says it will become a place for visitors to simply observe and learn about the majestic mammals.


“We are not planning to put the seat supports back on the elephants,” Kalampichit said, “even if we can operate again. We want 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.”


Unfortunately, although these elephants have finally been freed, their future is uncertain.

“The cost for taking care of the 78 elephants and 300 staff is five million THB ($160,000) per month,” says Kalampichit. “So for now, we have to bear that expense without income from tourists.”


With hundreds of other elephant camps shut down or facing imminent closure, animals in some areas are being chained up and left without enough food due to lack of funds, according to a report in The Daily Mail. There are concerns that the elephants from these now-defunct camps will starve, be forced into the illegal logging trade, or eventually be sold to zoos.


This goes to show that without the support of tourists, the elephant entertainment industry across the globe will fail, as these facilities cannot exist without our revenue. People have more power than ever to encourage the entire world to end elephant exploitation for good and get these innocent creatures transferred to sanctuaries that can provide the care they deserve.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to you about Jahn, a rescued elephant, and I shared the heartwarming story about her last ride.

For her whole life, Jahn (pictured above) wore a backbreaking saddle as she gave rides to an endless line of tourists. At night, heavy chains kept her movement restricted, and she had no way of keeping herself sheltered from the blistering elements.    But you helped break her chains, and last October, Jahn gave her final ride. She now roams free at our partner sanctuary, Following Giants, enjoying the grass beneath her feet. 

Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jahn and her friends are facing a new threat. Tourist dollars have dried up, and without a steady flow of income, high welfare venues like Following Giants are struggling to feed and care for their rescued elephants. This is putting them at risk of starvation, malnutrition, and health problems.

Please help animals like Jahn. With your help, we can ensure that Jahn and other animals are taken care of during this unprecedented time. Your gift will help provide elephant food, supplements, veterinary care, and additional lifesaving support.

Jahn has already lived a troubled life. Used many years for "entertainment" and subjected to immense cruelty, we have to make sure that she does not know another day of struggle!

Animals like Jahn are counting on YOU to help save their lives. Please rush your most generous donation today to support our efforts around the world.

Meet Ellie the Elephant

Celebrate Save the Elephant Day with a presentation from Ellie, PETA’s walking, talking 6.5-foot-tall robot, whose larger-than-life personality and message of compassion has captivated—and empowered—young audiences in schools across the country.

What You Can Do:
  • Stay informed. Don’t visit places that offer elephant rides. Inform your travel agent and any local guides about your preference.

  • Share your opinion. Be vocal and object strongly. Post on social media. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues why it’s important to avoid riding elephants. We know most people will avoid doing it once they know the issues. Spreading awareness is the key to reducing exploitation and abuse of animals.

  • Write to travel websites, magazines, guidebooks, tour operators, and travel agents to discourage them from offering elephant rides to tourists.

  • Write to the local tourism departments and the parks you plan to visit expressing your concerns about elephant riding. Politely request that they put an end to it.

  • Support only responsible tourism projects. Look into tours and centers that do not offer elephant rides. Make sure they are reputable conservation centers, sanctuaries, national parks, or wildlife reserves—places where tourists and animal lovers are educated about these special creatures in a conducive space that is safe for everyone involved.

Beware of False Tourism Claims

When booking your travel, be skeptical even when places advertise themselves as an “ecotour” or as "humane." If they advocate for the riding of elephants, painting/decorating them, or if they keep any elephants in chains, they should be avoided. To experience elephants in a humane way, please visit Wildlife SOS Elephant Care and Conservation Center in Agra to meet our rescued elephants.

Elephant in The Room
"Corporations Are People My Friends."
Our companies are known for creating products that enhance people's lives.  Through Sunset Corporation of America and its companies, we’re equally dedicated to improving lives.  Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.

Our companies are known for creating products that enhance people's lives.  Through Sunset Corporation of America and its companies, we’re equally dedicated to improving lives.   Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.


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