Dozens of elephants in northern Thailand were set free after parks closed due to the coronavirus outbreak that forced millions of people across the world to self-quarantine and live in their homes during lockdown.

Businesses and other establishments were also forced to closed down, including the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Owners of the camp decided to remove the wooden and metal seats strapped to the elephants’ backs throughout the day and they have also announced that they have no intention of putting it back to its 78 elephants once the business has reopened. Instead, the gentle giants will be allowed to roam and live freely in the camp grounds, where visitors can observe them quietly.

“We are not planning to put the seat supports back on the elephants, 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,” Anchalee Kalampichit, camp directors, told The Independent in an interview. “We will welcome tourists to enjoy learning the elephants’ ways of life naturally instead of using them to entertain the tourists.”

She said this will be the first time in 44 years that the elephants will not wear the big and heavy seats during daytime.

“Since we entered the business in 1976, riding on the elephants has always been the favorite activity of tourists,” she told The Independent. “But because the coronavirus has spread there have been fewer tourists and eventually the government ordered us to close so we have removed the chairs to liberate the elephants.”

Though all businesses are suspended for now, the camp owners said they are to care for the elephants, all the while continuing to pay about 300 staff members, which amounts to five million baht.

“We will not leave anyone behind and will try to take the best care of the elephants for as long as we can,” Kalampichit said. “Now we are planting vegetables for the staff to eat as one of the ways we can reduce the expenses.”

Due to the sudden drop in tourists, elephant parks across Thailand closed.

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