Cambodia’s largest attraction Angkor Wat has pledged to ban elephant rides by 2020.
The Buddhist temple complex, which is the largest religious monument in the world, attracts 2.5 million international tourists visit each year many of whom ride the elephants.
In 2016, Sambo the elephant died while ferrying two tourists, with one vet putting her death down to ‘high temperatures, heat exhaustion and lack of wind that would have helped to cool her’.
This led to international outrage, with campaigners calling on the attraction to ban rides, and thousands of people signing a petition.
End of rides
Now the Angkor Elephant Group Committee – the temple’s elephant-ride operator – has agreed to send the rides.
Committee Director Oan Kiry released a statement saying: “In early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists.
“They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding center. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible.”
The move has been welcomed by animal campaigners, including Moving Animals, which documents animal suffering around the world.
“The end of elephant rides at Angkor Wat is truly a watershed moment that shows the tide is turning against cruel wildlife tourism,” said a spokesperson.
“More and more tourists no longer want to pay to see animals in chains or captivity, and attractions where elephant riding continues, need to ban these rides if they are to stay in favor with tourists and animal lovers.”
‘Cycle of abuse’
“We applaud the Angkor Elephant Group Committee for choosing to end this merciless cycle of abuse,” said vegan charity PETA. “We urge the committee to retire the 14 elephants it currently holds captive to a legitimate sanctuary, where they’d have the freedom to roam, forage, socialize, and play on their own terms.
“Elephants aren’t the only individuals forced to ferry tourists and their belongings on their backs…Animals around the world are similarly forced to bear the weight of humans, carriages, and tourists’ luggage, and every traveler who books an excursion involving captive animals is supporting this merciless cycle of abuse.
“Animals deserve to be treated with respect, not shackled and ridden to death. We know it, the Angkor Elephant Group Committee knows it.”