Elephant rides, a long established addition to the tourist experience within the Angkor temple complex, will be banned next year. A spokesperson for the Apsara Authority, the park’s management, has confirmed that companies will no longer be able to operate rides after January 2020. The activity has proved popular with visitors to the archaeological park situated near Siem Reap, despite increasing controversy surrounding the practice.
Fourteen elephants are known to be used for entertainment purposes inside the Angkor park, and five of these have recently been retired to a designated, safe area of forest 40km away from Siem Reap. Animal rights and conservation groups have long been calling for the end to elephant riding in Asia, citing harsh handling and ongoing cruelty during the training process. Particular concerns for elephant welfare in Cambodia increased after a female elephant collapsed and died on the roadside inside the Angkor complex in 2016.
The ban on elephant rides in Cambodia comes after online review website Tripadvisor banned ticket sales to animal interaction experiences, including elephant rides, on its platform in 2016. News of Cambodia’s decision will renew activists’ calls for a ban in neighbouring Thailand, Laos and Vietnam where the use of animals for tourism remains prolific.