The year 2019 will see the end of tourists in Cambodia riding elephants at Angkor War.
The Associated Press reported since 2001, an outside company provided elephant rides at the UNESCO World Heritage site. After one of the elephants died in 2016, the activity was labeled cruel and unnecessary. A petition on Change.org was circulated demanding an end to the practice.
Finally, the government agency managing the Siem Reap temple complex agreed to stop the rides.
Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal told Agence France-Presse,
”Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore.”
So where will the elephants go?
Good news! They’ll live out the rest of their lives in a community forest.
This compassionate response by officials in Cambodia is part of a worldwide movement toward more responsible wildlife tourism that has also seen travel companies stop their sales of tickets for animal shows that buy or breed whales and dolphins.
What is concerning, however, is that the same company who used the elephants for tourist rides still owns the animals. Even though they will live about 40 miles away in the community forest, they will still be used to perform for tourists.
As the Change.org petition suggested, even if the elephants seemed well-taken care of by the trainers in charge of the rides, most of the cruelty happens behind the scenes and away from paying customers.
But, removing the elephant rides is a good step toward the better treatment of animals in tourism.
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