“Elephant camps have been largely impacted by COVID-19 because we survive on tourism, on foreign tourists.” That is the stark reality that Siwawut Munesane, owner of Into the Wild elephant camp, and other elephant camps and sanctuaries in Thailand have faced during the pandemic. Elephant experiences are one of the most popular activities for tourists in Thailand. With the absence of travel, elephant camps have no money coming in, which is vital to provide food and care for the elephants, and income for the mahouts (elephant caretakers) and owners. Despite pay cuts or even without pay, mahouts have remained with their elephants to care for them. It is a unique bond. “Elephants are my life, elephants are my family, ” explains Siwa.
The pandemic has shed a light on the need for innovation and change to improve elephant welfare and the sustainability of elephant tourism. Simply stated, “It’s something we’ve never needed to consider. Every elephant camp needs to adjust their thinking.”