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Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor Wat
Posted on 21/11/2019

NatureCambodia

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Exploited elephants will finally be released back into the jungle as Cambodia ends its elephant rides at Angkor temple complex

No more elephant rides at Angkor Wat

No more elephant rides at Angkor Wat
Jeff Cagle/123RF

Elephant rides have long been a popular tourist attraction at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap but local authorities are finally bringing the inhumane practice to an end.

As the largest religious monument in the world, the archaeological site attracts thousands of visitors every year. Yet now the Apsara Authority, in partnership with The Elephant Management Association, will ban elephant rides that take place there by the start of 2020.

"Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore," Long Kosal, a spokesman for the Apsara Authority told reporters at Agence France-Presse, noting that five out of their fourteen elephants had already been relocated to a sheltered and forested area around 25 miles away from the ruins, where "they will live out their natural lives."

A history of cruelty

A history of cruelty
Jeff Cagle/123RF

Yet some of the remaining elephants at the temple complex, among which are those that have been kept in captivity since 2001, are old and are declining in health, having provided rides for tourists for nearly 20 years.

In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after giving tourists a ride around the Angkor temple complex in severely hot weather conditions. Veterinarians at the time concluded that the elephant had died of heart failure, most likely brought upon by the hot temperatures and stress.

This particular incident triggered a public outcry on social media and a petition was posted on the website change.org addressed to the Apsara Authority, the government agency overseeing Angkor Wat, calling elephant riding to be ceased there altogether. "There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides," the petition read. "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."

Now, the new rules are set in come into play at the start of 2020. Yet the battle hasn't been completely won. It has also been announced that although the elephants have been relocated, they will still be under the care of the company that owns them, and will continue to be trained to put on performances for visitors to to the area.

The fight is far from over

The fight is far from over
bloouda/123RF

The demand elephant rides in other popular tourist destinations, especially in neighbouring Thailand, is relentless and shows no signs of slowing. When there is an opportunity for profit, there is also opportunity for exploitation and a disregard for the welfare of the animals who are forced to participate in a 10-minute tourist ride, or a circus-like show where the animals are made to stand on their hind legs, juggle and paint with their trunks. The animals suffer in terrible conditions in the exploitative camps: they are taken from their home in the wild, separated from their family and are subjected to the use of chains, whips, and minimal downtime, all for the sake of human entertainment.

What this means is that conscientious travellers need to reconsider their participation and unconscious perpetuation of these activities. Those who are wanting animal experiences on their travels because they love them need to remember the cruelty taking place behind the scenes and that abstaining completely from these types of experiences will help reduce the demand for these types of attractions where animals are continually exploited and harmed.