More than 100 elephants in Thailand’s north make a 100-mile trek on foot to return home to their natural habitat

More than 100 elephants in Thailand have returned home to their natural habitat where they can learn to be more self-sufficient, according to Chiang Mai’s Save Elephant Foundation.

It follows the closure of some elephant camps in Chiang Mai, and elsewhere in Thailand’s north, which have been affected by the drop in tourism due to Covid-19, leaving sanctuaries lacking in funds for the animals upkeep.

Since April, more than 100 of the animals have marched from all over Chiang Mai back to their homeland in Mae Chaem, where members of the Karen ethnic minority live and traditionally keep elephants.

Save Elephant Foundation has been promoting the elephants’ return to their natural habitats. The foundation supports fundraising efforts to feed animals still housed at tourist parks, but said it’s good for them to return to their natural environment where they can learn to be more self-sufficient.

Save Elephant Foundation’s founder, Saengduean Chailert, says the project to send unemployed elephants home is in response to desperate appeals from their owners. The group promotes settling elephants where they can live alongside villagers in sustainable eco-friendly communities, believing many of the animals are abused at some high-profile tourist attractions.

Sadudee Serichevee, who set up his own small Karen Elephant Experience park in Chiang Mai’s Mae Wang district with four elephants he purchased from Mae Chaem’s Ban Huay Bong, said he and his wife agreed to bring their elephants back to Mae Chaem because they could no longer shoulder the monthly expenses of close to 200,000 baht (£5,000) for rental of land and facilities, salaries for handlers, and food. Elephants eat as much as 300 kilograms a day of grass and vegetables.

They convinced some other owners to make the more than 100-mile trek on foot with them.Their caravan of 11 elephants, their owners and their handlers, set out on 30 April, travelling over hills, on paved and dirt roads and were greeted by a welcome-home party on their arrival at Ban Huay Bong days later on 4 May.

Sadudee Serichevee said: “These elephants have not had a chance to return home for 20 years.

“They seem to be very happy when arriving home, they make their happy noises, they run to the creek near the village and have fun along with our children.”

Images Source: Save Elephant Foundation/AP

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at

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