A Cambodian elephant ride provider in Angkor Wat claims that it will now reduce the labor hours of its animals following the death of one because of heatstroke. Sambo, believed to be 45-years-old, collapsed near Bakheng Mountain after being ridden by two tourists who visited the renowned temples.
Sambo had been walking for 45 minutes when she collapsed. As reported by the Independent, Oan Kiri, the manager of the tour company, said that veterinarians cited heatstroke as Sambo’s cause of death. The pachyderm had been working for the Angkor Elephant company since 2001.
According to Kiri, the hot temperatures resulted in “stress, shock, high blood pressure, and a heart attack.” He added that the company’s devastated after Sambo’s death. He claimed that the company’s 13 remaining elephants would have shorter work hours. However, the new policy will only last until the end of the country’s hot spells.
A Facebook user named Yem Senok shared the dead elephant’s photos that immediately went viral. Several spectators reportedly wept after seeing Sambo’s state. The photos also sparked an online petition condemning the controversial industry.
“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 tourism industry to take the steps needed to end this horrific practice.”
The petition went on to say that despite the press releases of tour providers about being responsible, there’s no such thing as “cruelty-free” rides.
“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 realise is that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘bucket list’ item for you, means a lifetime of misery for wild animals.”
More than 35,000 supporters have already signed the petition aimed at Cambodia’s management group responsible for the conservation of the archaeological park.
Like Cambodia, Thailand was also placed in hot water after a tourist was trampled to death by an abused and exhausted elephant. Gareth Crowe, 36, availed the elephant trek package with his stepdaughter to explore the Thai resort island of Koh Samui.
However, the elephant tossed the Scottish tourists off his back and attacked Crowe with his tusk. Several eyewitnesses claim that the handler hit the elephant several times before the attack. Since training sessions can leave elephants traumatized, some of them reach their breaking point.
Animal rights activists have long discouraged tourists from riding elephants. Most of the elephants in the tourism trade have undergone horrifying forms of training. They are taken away from their mothers at a young age.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reports that in order to break the elephants’ spirits and make them dependent on their masters, they are forced to stand for 23 hours a day for up to six months. Their chains leave them unable to lie down. Some trainers also use bullhooks – batons with steel hooks on one end – and even electric prods to instill fear in the animals.
The barbaric process is also known as phajaan and leaves the elephants immobilized, injured, and terrified. Many travel agencies have already pledged to remove elephant rides from their itineraries: Intrepid Travel, Veg Voyages, The Travel Corporation, and TUI, to name a few.
[Image via Yem Senok/Facebook]