The famous Angkor Wat temples, which welcome around 6 million tourists every year, have been the site for a very ‘cruel’ practice- elephant rides. Most foreign tourists who visit this place opt for old elephants to take them along the ride of the temples. And while this is seen as a tradition, conservationists believe it is high time that this practice is stopped. Fortunately for them, the courts and the government have been thinking along the same lines as well. This ensures that this practice is going to be over by 2020.
The agency which supervises the Angkor archaeological complex- Apsara agency is of the opinion that the 14 elephants still in service of a private company should now be retired, for they are getting extremely old. The elephants have been doing this for the last 2 decades and it is time to call it a day.
Long Kosal was the spokesperson available for comment who believes that these elephants have long struggled in their work. The elephants are old and need to be retired without any further delay. Already 2 out of the 14 have been relocated 40 km away from the temples in a community forest. The rest 12 would be relocated shortly. Cambodia has had a history of being under the radar of Animal Rights activists who consider the traditional usage of elephants as vehicles to be extremely orthodox and needless. There are other forms of vehicles that would serve the purpose equally. Most of the elephants are also taken and broke in, with many activist groups blaming the trainers for manhandling.
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It was only in 2016, when the death of a female elephant just outside of the complex, led to the massive outcry against this practice. The elephant had just given a ride for 45 minutes when she collapsed and died in the extreme heat. Soon, the news went viral and many petitions were sent to Apsara to let go of this malpractice.
Since ages, elephants have been used in Asia as carriers of logs and other stuff. But with increasing deforestation and mechanization of labor, they have now been transported to the tourism sector. This sector might be fun for humans, but definitely not animals, who are overworked to an extreme.
But, from a completely different point of view, it could be seen how the Cambodian government is trying to capitalize its lone UNESCO and tourist site to maximize profit. Angkor Wat is their pride and also in their national flag.
IMAGE CREDIT: Guo Zhonghua