Cambodia banned elephant ride in Angkor Wat

03 August 2021

Siem Reap is one of the biggest states in Cambodia and best known for being home to the incredible Angkor Wat, a sprawling World Heritage - listed complex of ancient temple ruins. Times ago, visitors can explore Angkor Wat by many means, including riding elephants. However, to protect elephant in particular and animals in general, the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap announced a ban on elephant riding as early as 2020, following pressure from animal protection organizations.

Local authorities have now begun to take action. On November 15th, two of the 14 elephants at Angkor Wat were moved to Bos Thom forest nearby.

Long Kosal, Apsara representative, said the remaining elephants will be moved to the same forest early next year. "Elephants are big but very gentle, we do not want to see elephants being exploited for tourism anymore. We want them to live in the natural environment," said Kosal.

Riding elephants across Angkor Wat before being banned

Visitors riding elephants in Angkor Archaeological Park. Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP.

In 2016, an elephant named Sambo died in Angkor, causing an international uproar. The elephant's death was attributed to heatstroke and exhaustion due to being continuously ridden by tourists. Two years later, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced that Asian elephant populations were down by 50% in just three generations.

According to Angkor Enterprise, the park's managing organization, the UNESCO heritage is now encountering the decline in tourists’ number. The latest report recorded 1.8 million foreign tourists buying tickets to visit the ancient temples from January to September this year, decreased by 13.7% compared to the same period in 2018.

Although no organization or expert predicts the influence of Cambodia's ban on elephant ride, actually there is an increase in the number of tourists and travel agencies who tend to eliminate the tourist spots relating to animals. Recently, TripAdvisor announced to stop selling tickets to all whale or dolphin-capturing destinations, including the SeaWorld amusement park in the US.

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