Tourists Can No Longer Take Elephant Rides At Angkor Wat In Cambodia Starting 2020

A 'bucket list' item for many of the kingdom's tourists, this 'once in a lifetime' experience of riding an elephant has meant a lifetime of misery for some of these wild giants.

Cover image via RojakDaily & BBC

The Cambodian government has decided that starting 2020, all elephant rides at the famed Angkor Wat temple park will be banned

An official with the Apsara Authority, which manages the Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap, said that the elephant rides "will end by the start of 2020", reported New Straits Times.

The New Straits Times' report cited an AFP report published on Friday, 15 November, saying that the Angkor archaeological complex attracts the bulk of the kingdom's foreign tourists, many of whom opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples. In 2018, the number of tourists topped six million.

Image via Angkor Focus

A spokesperson for the Apsara Authority, which manages the park, admitted that some of the elephants were "already old", before adding that "using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore"

According to the official, five of the 14 working elephants have already been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometres away from the temples.

"They will live out their natural lives there," he said, adding that rest of the remaining elephants will be gradually transported throughout the next couple of months.

The decision is said to be a rare win for environmentalists everywhere, who have long decried the popular practice as horrific and cruel

The Angkor archaeological complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, spans 400 square kilometres, prompting many visitors to opt for a ride on one of the attraction's 14 elephants.

The majestic animals have also been taught to put on performances for tourists, a practice that has been criticised in the past as many of the elephants used for the attractions are old or unhealthy.

Back in 2016, an elderly elephant had collapsed and died while shuttling tourists in 40C heat.

The elephant's death at that time made waves after a photo of her, lying on the ground, went viral on social media, prompting people to ask the Apsara Authority to ban elephant rides at the site.

This elephant's death prompted thousands of people to sign the petition.

Image via BBC

Meanwhile, an additional report by VICE said that while elephant rides will end, tourists can still interact with the elephants from a distance

"They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding centre. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible," the VICE report quoted Oan Kiry, director of the Angkor Elephant Group Committee, as saying.

Image via RojakDaily

Last year, Greece banned tourists who weigh over 100kg from riding donkeys on the island of Santorini as a mode of transportation:

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