Elephant Rides Are Now Banned at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat
The roles of elephants in the past
As you take your journey to Cambodia, you will understand how the elephant has been so important in the creation of the fabulous Kingdom of Cambodia. Elephants hold particular cultural significance in Cambodia, most famously for the critical role their harnessed power provided in the building of the 12th Century temple of Angkor Wat – the largest religious building in the world. The elephant has seen and served many kings and queens as they have travelled to and from the temples and has even helped to construct those same temples. Unfortunately, the elephant has also been used by soldiers in war time.
Elephant rides became one of the most popular activities at Angkor Temples Complex
Every year, over 2.5 million people make the journey to visit Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s enormous temple complex. Its role as the most popular tourist attraction in the country means that a host of other tourism services have sprung up to support travelers. That’s the reason why the elephant rides were offered at Siem Reap’s Angkor Archaeological Park.
Elephant Rides became more and more popular way of visiting many of the Angkor Temples. Elephants can be taken from the South Gate of Angkor Thom where they will lead you down the road to the majestic Bayon Temple to the backdrop of inquisitive monkeys and jungle. Once within Bayon the elephant can lead you around the perimeter of Angkor Thom’s signature temple. You can also take an elephant up to Phnom Bakheng or Bakheng Mountain to watch the spectacular sunset over Angkor Wat and the west Baray (lake).
Elephant Rides Are Now Banned at Angkor Wat
In just one of many heartbreaking instances, an elephant named Sambo died of a heart attack carrying tourists to Angkor Wat in 2016. Sambo suffered a heart attack after being forced to carry two tourists — one trip each — in extremely hot weather conditions. Her death is said to be caused by a combination of heat stroke and exhaustion from carrying people.
Thanks to pressure from animal activist groups, Apsara, the management authority for the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia announced in June 2019 it would ban elephant rides in early 2020.
It’s a big step for the park’s management company Apsara, which announced the new policy in June 2019. At the time, it said that two of the fourteen elephants located in the park had already been relocated to a nearby forest and that the others would make the move early 2020. At that point, they will be allowed to live naturally under the care of the Elephant Management Association.