Every year, millions of tourists visit northern Siem Reap to explore the Angkor archaeological complex, which is the home to multiple temples built between the 9th and 15th centuries.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and spans 400 square kilometers, so a lot of tourists choose to see the spectacular monuments while riding one of the attraction’s 14 elephants.
Yet, animal rights activists have criticized the park as many of the elephants were old and unhealthy, and accused handlers of overworking them.
They also encouraged officials to stop using the elephants for the entertainment of the visitors.
Earlier this year, it was announced that their efforts paid off, and an official announcement on November 15 confirmed the news of the ban.
BIG NEWS: The use of elephants in Angkor Wat is due to end in 2020, meaning retirement for all the elephants who are forced to give rides at Cambodia’s famous tourist attraction.
— PETA UK (@PETAUK) June 11, 2019
The rides will officially ‘end by the start of 2020’.
Long Kosal, a spokesperson with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park, admitted that it is no longer appropriate to use elephants for business, and confirmed that some of the animals were already old.
Even though the elephants are being moved to a community forest about 25 miles away, the company that owns them will continue to look after them.
Kosal added that there, they will have the opportunity to live out their natural lives.
Five of the elephants have already been moved and the rest will be gradually transported throughout the few months.
Three years ago, an elephant collapsed and died at the park while carrying two tourists, and the vet that examined it determined it was due to high temperatures, heat exhaustion and lack of wind “that would have helped to cool her’.
Last year, another elephant died, after which a petition to end the elephant rides gained over 14,000 signatures.
When the ban comes into place, these beautiful animals will finally live a happy life.
Angkor Enterprise, which manages park admissions, reported that the UNESCO-listed site is facing a decline in tourist numbers.
— WildTrails -- Ultimate Wildlife Holiday Experiences (@_WildTrails) November 15, 2019
There is no predicting whether Cambodia’s ban on Angkor elephant rides will impact the number of tourists who visit the site, but it comes at a time when more and more travelers and tourism organizations around the world have moved to eliminate animal-related attractions.
Campaign group Moving Animals has campaigned to ban elephant rides at Angkor Wat, and their spokesman stated:
‘The end of elephant rides at Angkor Wat is truly a watershed moment that shows the tide is turning against cruel wildlife tourism.
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.”
Fortunately, numerous campaigns and petitions of this kind have raised awareness about animal rights and our selfishness when it comes to using them for our own entertainment.
Even though there are numerous animals that are still tortured and kept under horrible conditions, we believe that battle by battle, we will eventually win the war too.