photo: Oz Go

Rescuing Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

A heavy metal chair. A 14+ hour workday parading tourists around. With little time to eat, baking hot conditions, exhausting hours, and no days off this is life 365 days a year for most elephants in South East Asia.

With your help, it ends now.

Elephants are forced to live like this because of the tourism industry’s demand for cheap rides and photo ops. The good news is that by changing the demand, we can end the abuse. With your help, we can change the tide of tourism in Thailand. 


Volunteer and Live with Rescued Elephants:

We have rescued and retired elephants from logging and abuse. You can visit them in their beautiful home and help us continue to care for them. 


  • We have rescued 12 elephants from chair rides and counting 

  • Provided care and food for 12 elephants so they only need to work part time

  • Provided fair wages and elephant care education for elephant caretakers

  • We have also been successful raising awareness about ethical tours among elephant owners and mahouts in the area.  Several camp owners now prefer to work with our guests because the interactions benefit the elephants, and want to retire more elephants.

The Truth about helping elephants

Since its founding, Chai Lai Orchid has shared property with an elephant camp where the caretakers are refugees and ethnic minorities. Previously, the elephants were controlled all by a tour company. It broke our hearts to see the elephants' slave-like conditions every morning. It was traumatic to witness and we felt helpless.

We set out to give them (and their mahouts) a better way of life. But CLO's income only allowed us to rent the elephants for afternoons, so our impact was limited. We also faced increasing threats of violence for interfering with the existing lucrative and unethical business model.

In October 2017 we made the difficult decision to shutter our business and boycott the camp to send a strong message about how eco tourism works. Only one month after we left, the elephant camp owner asked us to return. You will be happy to know now the elephants never have to give chair rides and instead get to bathe all day and go for long walks where they can forage in the jungle!!!

4 ways you can help Now

1. Awareness

Tell your family and friends. These elephants might be loud, but they can’t speak our language. Use your voice to spread to word about their plight. Share about what we’re doing on social media with the hashtags #ChiangMai #ChaiLaiOrchid 

2. Donate

Elephants are very expensive to care for because they need jungle to roam in, rivers for bathing and drinking and 150 kg of food per day.  You can get your office to adopt an elephant, host a fundraiser to rescue elephants. Any donations big or small helps. Just $10 pays for herbal medicine treatment for a sick elephant. 

3. Support

Come visit them! The most sustainable way to help these elephants is simply to support ethical elephant tours so that they can earn enough money for a safe home, an abundance of food and quality 24 hour care. 

4. Educate yourself

Elephants are big business in Thailand and many companies craft emotional pleas without facts and use business models that only serve to make money and actually hurt elephant conservation efforts. Check out our FAQs to learn to separate fact from fiction.