Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said yesterday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.

The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists – which topped six million in 2018 – and many opt for elephant rides around the ancient temples.

But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.

“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old”.

So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometres away from the temples.

“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.

The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.

Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.