Anchalee Kalampichit, owner of Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, closed the park on Monday after tourist numbers dropped from “hundreds” each day to less than 20, she told CNN.
Kalampichit said she would take the chance to rebuild the park and let the 78 elephants in the place roam freely for the first time.
When it opens again in the future, she said, the park would instead focus on “educating” tourists about elephants – and would no longer force them to carry tourists or perform tricks.
She said the coronavirus pandemic had accelerated her decision, as a fall in footfall forced the park to close.
“We want to do the same thing at Maesa Elephant Camp instead of riding,” she said.
“On March 23, I decided to close and asked my staff to keep the seats [for spectators] and put them aside … We put away everything we used to have for tourists and my announcement to the public is that we will stop from the show and ride the elephants, ”she said.
Kalampichit said that for many of the 78 elephants living on the site, this would be the first time they would not have to carry places for tourists. “We don’t want to do it anymore,” she said.
The Thai government announced on Wednesday that it would ban the majority of foreign nationals from entering the country as part of measures aimed at dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.