On the 8th April, 1976, Mr.Choochart Kalmapijit established Maesa Elephant Camp. At that time, the Thai government was anxious to develop Chiangmai Province for tourism. Initially, a 30 rai (12 acres) area was leased, and 6 elephants were rented from the local Karen hill-tribe people. The camp later became very successful with the introduction of elephant riding, and an elephant show, which included elephants performing tricks. Eventually, Maesa Elephant Camp expanded to include the Maesa Elephant Nursery and the Thai Elephant Care Center. At present, there are a total of 78 elephants in the care of Maesa Elephant Camp.
In 2019, ownership of Maesa Elephant Camp, including the Maesa Elephant Nursery and Thai Elephant Care Center, was transferred to Mrs.Anchalee Kalmapijit, the eldest daughter of the late Mr.Choochart Kalmapijit. Mrs.Kalmapijit had grown up learning about elephants, and in later years helped her father run Maesa Elephant Camp. Now, as the new owner, Mrs.Kalmapijit made the decision that Maesa Elephant Camp should undergo radical changes to the way it operates. Her vision is to see the elephants living a more natural life, free from chains, no riding, painting pictures, or other such activities. The Thai Elephant Care Center, and the Maesa Elephant Nursery, were merged and are now called, The Chang. Nineteen of the more elderly elephants were immediately retired, and moved to The Chang. Here they live chain free, spending their days eating, bathing in the stream, taking mud baths or just resting. Gradually, more elephants have been relocated to The Chang, and approximately one third of Maesa Elephant Camp’s 78 elephants, reside here. A new volunteer program has been initiated, and will give those who participate, an opportunity to help care for these elephants. Mrs.Kalmapijit also consulted with Lek Chaillert at Elephant Nature Park, and subsequently, a team from Elephant Nature Park, have provided invaluable assistance to the staff of Maesa Elephant Camp, in beginning this transition.
On March 23rd2020, the Thai Government ordered that all non-essential businesses be closed due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Mrs Kalmapijit, decided that it would be an appropriate date to end elephant rides and the elephant show forever. And so, on that day, all the chairs used for elephant riding were removed from Maesa Elephant Camp, never to be used again. As land within the camp area is made available, more elephants can be moved to enjoy their life free from chains. In the meantime, the majority of the elephants still at Maesa Elephant Camp get to spend their days with their mahouts, foraging for food in the jungle above the camp area.