Cambodia will ban elephant rides at Angkor Wat temples by early next year in response to pressure from animal groups, a spokesperson of the Aspar Authority said last week.
The Angkor Wat temple complex attracts millions of tourists each year. In 2018 for instance, the number of tourists topped six million, and many of them enjoyed elephant rides around the temples, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Against this backdrop, animal rights groups have expressed concerns at the risk of mistreating animals.
The death of a female elephant in 2016 of heart failure after working in extremely hot weather triggered outrage on social media. A petition was launched on change.org to ask the Aspar Authority to cease elephant riding in archeological sites, according to Associated Press.
Three years after the elephant’s death, Aspar Authority promised to stop the services and release all 14 elephants into their natural habitat by early 2020.
The authority’s spokesperson, Long Kosal, told the AFP that “using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” adding that the elephants are already old.
Long Kosal指出，14頭在吳哥窟服務的大象中，已經有五頭被轉移到附近的保育森林，「他們會在那裡過著自然的生活」Long Kosal說道，並表示擁有這些大象的公司會持續照養牠們。
Long Kosal said five of the 14 elephants had been transported to nearby community forests. “They will live out their natural lives there,” Long Kosal told the AFP, adding that the company owning these elephants will keep looking after them.
柬埔寨媒體The Phnom Penh Post報導，Long Kosal表示，儘管園區內不會再有大象騎乘服務，遊客仍然可以到附近的保育區與大象近距離接觸並拍照。
Long Kosal added that the Aspar Authority aims to stop elephant riding in the park, but tourists can still visit their protected habitat to get a close look and take a photo with the elephants, according to The Phnom Penh Post.