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Cambodia will now remove elephant rides at Angkor Wat in 2020

  • Cambodia takes a major stand for the elephants, as they are no longer going to offer elephant rides at Angkor Wat in 2020.
  • On the heels of both the controversial death of an elephant in 2016 as well as the pressures on encouraging responsible wildlife tourism, Angkor Archaeological Park announced its removal of the elephant rides come early 2020
  • However, they are not totally free; and the elephants are still required to be trained to put on shows for tourists

Cambodia takes a major stand for the elephants.

It’s no secret to travelers and non-travelers alike that Cambodia’s elephant rides are one of the most famous tourist attractions in Asia. Elephants give rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple complex.

Removing Cambodia’s Elephant Rides

According to a report made by the Associate Press, a private company has been offering elephant rides at the UNESCO World Heritage site ever since 2001. However, after one animal died transporting a tourist in 2016, the practice has since been deemed as very cruel and unnecessary.

A petition in change.org was circulated, asking the tourism industry and Cambodia to end “this horrific practice.”

Cambodia, Elephant, Rides
via GuoZhongHua/Shutterstock

And because of the massive pressure from animal activist groups, Aspara, the management authority for the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia announced in June 2019 it would ban elephant rides come early 2020.

Now, the process of actually removing the gentle giants have begun.

Local outlet the Khmer Times reports that on November 15, two of the 14 elephants currently at the park, site of the famed Angkor Wat temple, have been relocated to the nearby Bos Thom community forest.

Long Kosal, an Apsara press representative, told the Khmer Times that the remaining dozen animals would be relocated to the same forest by “early next year.”

Of the remaining 14 working elephants at the site, some of whom are old and infirm, five have already been moved to their new home in a community forest some 40 kilometres away, and the remaining elephants should be situated by early next year. “They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.

The representative also reiterated that “using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore.”

Tourists will still get the chance to see the elephants, however they will not have the opportunity to ride them.

Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal said by phone from Siem Reap that the elephants will continue to be under the care of the company that owns them, which would also train them to put on performances for visitors. So this means that although the elephants are being removed from the ferry service, they are still required to put on shows.

While there’s no predicting whether Cambodia’s ban on Angkor elephant rides will impact visitor numbers, it comes at a time when more and more travelers and tourism organizations around the world have moved to eliminate animal-related attractions.

Last month, Airbnb introduced a collection of heavily vetted ethical experiences to help conscientious travelers interact with animals in a responsible fashion, while TripAdvisor stopped selling tickets for attractions that breed or buy whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans. 

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