Under public pressure, the Apsara authority in Cambodia- which manages UNESCO-listed Angkor Wat temples, is fully banning from next year popular elephant rides. Animals will now live peacefully in a nearby forest.
Cambodia is banning elephant rides at Angkor Wat, the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Th ban will be effective from early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples. Temples welcome around 2.5 million visitors each year.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020”, said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park. “Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old”.
A handful of the 14 elephants at the Angkor Wat complex have already been moved to nearby Bos Tham forest, 40 km away from the temple complex. “They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, added the Apsara representative.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, a practice which is also seen in neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather. The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed. The death of the elephant generated an outcry while many petitions called for a ban and boycott of the elephant ride.