PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Phnom Penh’s only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists.
Sambo, a 54-year-old female, had been a fixture at the Cambodian capital’s Wat Phnom temple since 1980.
She was forced to stop giving rides in 2012 after suffering a foot infection – and after local officials accused her of causing traffic jams.
Her owner and campaigners wanted to see the faithful pachyderm rewarded for years of loyal service with a retirement away from the blaring city, a wish that was eventually made possible by international funding.
“Sambo is like a younger sister to me,” owner Sin Sorn, 57, told AFP during a farewell ceremony for the elephant, who was draped in a flower garland and fed with fruit.
“I am getting old. So I decided she needed to be with nature… I am going to miss her very much,” Sorn added.