Officials in Cambodia have announced they are banning elephant rides at the country’s infamous Angkor temple park.
Millions of tourists visit northern Siem Reap every year to explore the Angkor archaeological complex, home to numerous temples built between the 9th and 15th centuries.
The park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, spans 400 square kilometers so many visitors opt to ride one of the attraction’s 14 elephants as they take in the spectacular monuments. The majestic animals have also been taught to put on performances for tourists.
However, the park has been criticised in the past because many of the animals being used are old or unhealthy. Animal rights activists have accused handlers of overworking the elephants and encouraged officials to stop using the elephants for the tourists’ entertainment.
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
Long Kosal, a spokesperson with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park, admitted some of the animals were ‘already old’ and that ‘using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore’. Not that subjecting animals to cruelty should have ever been appropriate, but at least they’re finally making moves to rectify their mistakes.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, though the animals are being moved from the park to a community forest about 25 miles (40 kilometres) away.
They will live out their natural lives there.
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been moved and the rest will be gradually transported throughout the next couple of months.
The rides – and therefore hopefully the animals’ suffering – will officially ‘end by the start of 2020’.
The confirmation of the ban comes three years after an elephant collapsed and died at the park while carrying two tourists.
At the time, the Independent reported a veterinarian examined the elephant and determined it died ‘due to high temperatures, heat exhaustion and lack of wind that would have helped to cool her’.
— WildTrails – Ultimate Wildlife Holiday Experiences (@_WildTrails) November 15, 2019
Another working elephant died at the popular attraction last year, after which a petition to end the elephant rides gained over 14,000 signatures.
Hopefully the beautiful animals will get to live the happy lives they deserve when the ban comes into place.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.