SIEM REAP, 26 April 2016: A petition website Change.org calls for an end of all elephant riding at Angkor Wat after a female elephant named Sambo, used for tourist rides at Angkor Wat, collapsed and died, Friday morning, near Bakheng Mountain in the archaeological park.
She died of exhaustion due to searing high temperatures that exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.
Phnom Penh Post quoted the manager Oan Kiri saying the 40-to-45-year-old elephant had worked for the Angkor Elephant Company for 15 years, since 2001.
Sambo died after taking two trips from Bayon Temple to Bakheng, having walked about 40 minutes. She collapsed while transporting two tourists just after leaving Bayon on the second trip, the manager confirmed.
“After our veterinarian checked…we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind,” he said. Siem Reap recorded a high of 40 degrees Celsius last Friday.
A Change.org petition calling for the end of elephant riding in Angkor went online shortly after the elephant’s death and has since garnered more than 16,000 signatures. Once it reaches 25,000 signatures the site will forward the petition officially to the authorities at Angkor Wat.
The petition stated: “It’s time to end elephant riding at the Angkor archaeological park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A cruel tourist attraction that has proven to be harmful to elephants, and can only damage the tourism industry of Cambodia, must finally come to an end.”
“The recent death of an elephant, used for tourist rides, at the Angkor temples should be the final wake-up call for the community and the tourism industry to take the steps needed to end this horrific practice.”
It added: “There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides. Tourists may think that riding an elephant on holiday does not cause harm – you often can’t see the cruelty – it’s hidden from view. What you don’t understand that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘bucket list’ item for you, is a lifetime of misery for animals.”
The petition calls on APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) to ban elephant riding at Angkor.
APSARA is the Cambodian management authority responsible for protecting the archaeological park of Angkor and is in charge of the research, protection, development and conservation of the park.
The website added: “Recently, thanks to World Animal Protection, 114 global companies have agreed to no longer offer visits to venues with elephant rides and shows. This is a clear sign that times are changing and the leaders of tourism industries understand and agree that this practice must end.”
The Change.org petition website also called on people to sign in, share, and let their voice be heard in calling for an end to elephant rides at Angkor via www.facebook.com/change.org.
See the full petition on the end of elephant riding at Angkor at www.change.org/p/apsara-authority-end-elephant-riding-at-angkor-siem-reap.
Change.org is a petition website operated by Change.org, Inc., an American B Corporation that provides a tool for people to advance social causes. It has more than 100 million users and hosts sponsored campaigns for organisations.
Popular topics of Change.org petitions are economic and criminal justice, human rights, education, environmental protection, animal rights, health, and sustainable food.
During January to March this year, the park welcomed 701,358 international tourists improving 1.8% over the same period last year. Revenue generated USD20.3 million from ticket sales in first quarter increasing 2.5%.
The largest sources markets, based on Angkor ticket sales, were China, South Korea and Japan.
The entrance fee to the Angkor Historical Park costs USD20 a day (foreigners only), USD40 for a three-day visit and USD60 for a week-long visit.
The park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 and is now the country’s largest cultural tourist destination. It is located in Siem Reap province, some 315 km northwest of capital Phnom Penh.