Progress! Cambodia’s Biggest Attraction, Angkor Wat, Set to End Elephant Rides

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Three years after Sambo the elephant dropped dead after being forced to carry tourists on her back at Angkor Wat, the Angkor Elephant Group Committee—the temple’s elephant-ride operator—has agreed to end the rides.

Angkor Wat—a Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia—is the largest religious monument in the world, making this progressive decision even more exciting. Many tourists who patronize elephant rides do so because they love animals, but if they knew the truth about the industry, we doubt that they’d still ride.

Animals Are Not Tourist Attractions

Elephants and other animals who are used for rides, like those currently at Angkor Wat, are typically torn away from their mothers when they’re just babies, and their spirits are violently broken through domination, fear, and punishment. These elephants can’t choose to socialize with other members of their species (something that those in nature love to do) and are forced to spend long hours chained, carrying riders on their backs, or performing painful tricks—even on the hottest days. Elephants held captive in tourist-attraction “orphanages” and parks are often denied proper nutrition, adequate water, and needed veterinary care, especially for their feet. It’s no surprise, then, that some finally snap and strike back. Many, like Sambo, die decades short of the life expectancy of their species.

Tourists who ride elephants have sustained injuries and even been killed.

Progress—but Not Quite a Victory

Although an elephant-ride ban should be implemented immediately—not in early 2020, as is reportedly the plan—we applaud the Angkor Elephant Group Committee for choosing to end this merciless cycle of abuse. We urge the committee to retire the 14 elephants it currently holds captive to a legitimate sanctuary, where they’d have the freedom to roam, forage, socialize, and play on their own terms.

No Animal Should Be Forced to Give Rides

Elephants aren’t the only individuals forced to ferry tourists and their belongings on their backs. One PETA-published eyewitness report revealed the horrific conditions that approximately 100 donkeys and mules are forced to endure every day on the Greek island of Santorini. They’re made to carry heavy loads, given practically no respite from the hot Mediterranean sun, and even denied access to water. Click here to help these donkeys.

A PETA Asia exposé of working animals in Petra, Jordan, revealed the terrible suffering of horses, mules, donkeys, and camels forced to carry tourists under the hot desert sun.

Animals around the world are similarly forced to bear the weight of humans, carriages, and tourists’ luggage, and every traveler who books an excursion involving captive animals is supporting this merciless cycle of abuse.

PETA has compelled countless companies and officials, including those in Petra, to implement more humane modes of transportation as well as animal-friendly activities and entertainment. Will you join us?

Animals deserve to be treated with respect, not shackled and ridden to death. We know it, the Angkor Elephant Group Committee knows it, and we think compassionate folks such as yourself know it, too. Click below to urge Four Seasons and other companies to help end this violence:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind