Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the famous Angkor temple complex by next year, an official said today.
The Angkor archeological park in Siem Reap attracts the most tourists—six million last year alone—and a lot of them like the idea of riding elephants among the ancient ruins.
But animal-rights groups have long criticized elephant exploitation, in Cambodia and elsewhere. Now Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the Angkor site, said it is important for the animals to be able to live in their natural habitat.
Some of the 14 elephants officially at the site under the management of a private company are old and in ill health. They have been providing rides for tourists since 2001 and would be trained to put on performances for visitors.
Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, said:
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore. They will live out their natural lives there.”
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, Kosal added.
Five of the 14 working elephants have already been moved to a community forest about 25 miles away from the temples.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
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