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The largest religious monument in the world (which is visited by over 2.5 million international tourists each year) is at last set to end cruel elephant rides at the illustrious landmark.
While the positives of this decision certainly cannot be overlooked, few questions remain, such as why early 2020 and not immediately. Also, rather than this being a proactive exercise it seems to be more reactive and an effort to end widespread criticism and backlash. In 2016, an elephant ferrying two tourists collapsed and died, at the time, The Independent reported a veterinary examination that attributed the cause of death to, “high temperatures, heat exhaustion and lack of wind that would have aided in cooling her”.
Long and behold, following a two-year gap, another elephant met its untimely demise due to exhaustion. This was a watershed moment that sparked huge outrage across the globe and within 48 hours a petition to end elephant rides at Angkor Wat gained over 14,000 signatures.
Oan Kiry, director of the Angkor Elephant Group Committee, said: “In early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists. They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding centre. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible”.
Campaign group Moving Animals, who raise voice towards the inhumane act of elephant riding have labelled the move as a ‘great relief’. A spokesperson said, “The end of elephant rides at Angkor Wat is a truly defining moment that shows the tide is turning against cruel wildlife tourism. More and more tourists no longer want to pay to see animals in chains or captivity”.
The number of wild elephants in Cambodia and other southeast Asian countries have been receding due to the demolition of natural habitats, illegal hunting and skirmishes between people and animals. Thus, the only way forward is one of peaceful coexistence and this highlights the need for more awareness regarding the issue to be disseminated.
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