Cambodia's Most Famous Tourist Attraction Just Banned Elephant Rides

Cambodia's Most Famous Tourist Attraction Just Banned Elephant Rides

"What you don’t realize is that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or 'bucket list' item for you, means a lifetime of misery for wild animals"

Since 2001, a private company has been offering elephant rides at Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, reported Associated Press. But, after an elephant died tragically while transporting a tourist in 2016, the practice was called inhuman and cruel. Cambodia's Angkor Wat is one of Asia's most famous tourist attractions and now they are taking a strong stand in favor of animals, reported CNN



After the unfortunate death of the elephant, a Change.org petition started circulating which implored the tourism industry to end “this horrific practice". After feeling a lot of pressure from animal activist groups, Apsara, the management authority for the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia announced in June 2019, they would ban elephant rides in 2020. 



Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal told Agence France-Presse, "Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore." It has been estimated that 14 elephants were working on the site and some of them are old. Five of them have already been moved to their new home in a forest which is some 40 kilometers away. The rest of the elephants are said to be moved to a sanctuary early next year. Kosal added, "They will live out their natural lives there." 



Another report by The Khmer Times reported that two of the elephants that were previously residing at the famed Angkor Wat temple have been relocated to the nearby Bos Thom community forest. Kosal said, "The elephant is a big animal, but it is also gentle and we don't want to see the animals being used for tourism activities anymore. We want them to live in their natural surroundings." 



After the death of an Elephant named Sambo in Angkor Wat temple in 2016, it drew worldwide attention. The elephant's death was blamed on complications based on heat stroke and exhaustion from carrying so many people around throughout the day. Two years later, the WWF published a detailed report that spoke about the gradually decreasing population of Asian elephants and noted that the species' population had declined by 50% in just three generations.



In October 2019, Airbnb introduced a collection of ethical experiences for tourists which will help travelers interact with animals in a responsible fashion, while TripAdvisor stopped selling tickets for attractions that breed or buy whales, dolphins, and other aquatic animals. According to Angkor Enterprise, the UNESCO heritage site has been facing a steady decline in the number of tourists. 



Around 1.8 million foreign tourists bought tickets to the temple complex from January to September 2019, which is 13.7% less compared to 2018. While no one can say if Cambodia's ban on Angkor elephant rides will impact visitor numbers, but it comes during a time when an increasing number of tourism companies around the world have moved to eliminate animal-related attractions.



As for this particular move, it does not come as a complete win since the elephants will remain under the care of the same temple authority. While they won't be available for rides anymore, they will still be trained to put on a show for the visitors. The petition reads, "There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides. Tourists may think that riding an elephant on holiday does not cause harm - you often can't see the cruelty - it's hidden from view. What you don’t realise is that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or 'bucket list' item for you, means a lifetime of misery for wild animals.”

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