Happy Elephant Valley, located in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, started its journey in 2017. Moving away from commonly seen activities that allow tourists to ride, bathe and feed the elephants, the team took a step towards becoming a truly elephant-friendly venue. With the support of World Animal Protection, and some of the world’s leading travel companies, ChangChill (meaning “relaxed elephants” in Thai) is now ready to reopen its doors – offering a better life for elephants and a unique experience for visitors.

The transition allows the six resident female elephants the freedom to roam the valley, graze, and bathe in the river, mud and dust, while socializing with each other. Visitors are no longer encouraged to interact with the elephants, but are now given the chance to see how the elephants choose to spend their days in the forest. Observe elephants navigate the lush forest, learn about Karen hill tribe culture with local community members, or enjoy the breathtaking view from the elephant observation deck – it’s not only the elephants that get to “chill” here.

About Elephant Family

ChangChill Elephant Stories


Mae Mun

Mae Mun, the oldest elephant at ChangChill, was born in the early 1960s in Mae Chod district, Tak Province. Her name means “strong mother”, she is owned by a family that has cared for her over two generations. She spent many years as a logging elephant in Myanmar, dragging heavy trees out of the forest. More recently, her owner’s son began working with her in the tourism industry, and they have both found a home at Chang Chill. Mae Mun lives up to her name, and is a strong, determined elephant that often spends time alone, but occasionally shows interest in the other elephants. You can spot Mae Mun grazing on the soft grasses near the river, or getting her favorite treat of ripe bananas from her mahout.


Mae Yuen

Mae Yuen was born in 1982 in Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai. Her name means “long life,” which is what we hope to give her here at ChangChill. Mae Yuen is owned by a family that has cared for her over two generations, and after several years working as a logging elephant in Thailand, she became on of the first elephants to join our project at ChangChill in 2017. Mae Yuen is kind, gentle and spends time with the other elephants, but also breaks away from the group to visit her favorite place at ChangChill – the river! On hot days, Mae Yuen will soak, swim and splash in the cool river all afternoon, clearly enjoying her retirement from work.


Mae Too

Mae Too was born in 1984 in Mae Hong Son province, where Karen hill tribe communities have a long history of living alongside elephants. The word “too” in Karen means “gold” and after spending several years working as a logging elephant, the two men that shared ownership of her asked their sons to take over, and they found work in the tourism industry in Chiang Mai. They spent about five years living and working in various trekking camps before seeking a different life for their elephant. Mae Too was one of the first elephants to join the herd at Chang Chill, and since then, she has spent her time foraging in the thickest parts of the forested land, always on the lookout for bamboo shoots.


Mae Moleko

Was born in the early 1970s in Mae Chod district, Tak province. Moleko is a Karen name, meaning “naughty girl,” and the mahout who works with her here at Chang Chill has taken care of her since she was a young elephant. Many years ago, when she was working as a logging elephant, she suffered a serious injury. She stepped on a landmine, and it badly damaged her back foot. As her mahout lived very far from any veterinary care, he treated Moleko’s foot using herbs and ancient treatments found and prepared in the forest. Her foot healed, but requires ongoing observation and treatment, which the team here is happy to offer her.


Mae Mayura

Mayura is the youngest, and most energetic elephant in the ChangChill herd, is often heard trumpeting and roaring with her mother, Mae Gohgae. Born in 1989, close to the Thai-Myanmar border, Mayura worked as a logging elephant in both Thailand and Myanmar for many years. While she was sometimes sent to work in different regions than her mother, the two were often able to reunite in their owners’ home town during breaks between logging jobs. Recently, she worked as a taxi elephant in Chiang Mai, carrying tourists on her back alongside her mother, at a camp that gave them very little free time to spend together. We’re proud to see how much Mayura enjoys her days at ChangChill. Whether she’s grazing in the forest, or splashing in the river, it is plain to see she’s just happy to have her mother by her side.


Mae Gohgae

Mae Gohgae lives a special life at ChangChill, because “mae” in Thai means “mother,” and that’s exactly what her role is here. Unfortunately, many elephants are separated from their mothers at a young age, but Mae Gohgae hardly ever lets her daughter, Mayura, out of her sight. Born in the early 1970s, Mae Gohgae hasn’t had the easiest life. She spent years dragging logs out of the forest in Thailand and Myanmar before working as a trekking elephant in Chiang Mai. Before giving birth to Mayura, Mae Gohgae had another calf that died only a few hours after being born. Now, she is very protective of Mayura, and this mother-daughter duo are constantly vocalizing to each other, which can be heard echoing throughout ChangChill. We wonder if this proud mother will ever adopt any of the other elephants, and eventually take on the role of the herd’s matriarch.