In a welcome move, the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia is all set to bid adieu to the elephant rides it is so famous for. A strong step against animal abuse, no elephants will be forced to work starting 2020. It will be a ‘happy’ new year indeed. By Kumar Shree
One of the prime tourist attractions in Cambodia, Angkor Wat, pulls a staggering 2.5 million visitors every year. A significant segment of these tourists opts for elephant rides in the temple complex. While it is a matter of joy and fascination for them, most of them are unaware of the cruelty and harsh treatment these elephants are subjected to: think, elephants being torn apart from their natural habitat and violently being forced to train, which messes up with their natural instincts.
Well, things would have continued that way, if it was not for the incident in 2016 that saw the tragic death of an elephant in Angkor Wat after it completed giving ride to tourists on a scorching day. One of the veterinarians later confirmed high temperature, exhaustion due to heat, and lack of wind for cooling her down as reasons for her demise. It was a terrible event that should not have happened. Thankfully, it attracted outcry from around the world and rightly garnered voices to stop this atrocious act of animal abuse.
Three years down the line, the Angkor Elephant Group Committee announces ban on these elephant rides and has also been urged to let go of the 14 elephants currently employed for giving rides to tourists. Oan Kiry, Director of The Angkor Elephant Group Committee in his statement said, “In early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists… They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding center. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible.”
The decision has been praised by animal rights organisations, advocates of sustainable development, and the wildlife welfare workers, as well. We just hope this is the beginning of many events to follow that show concern about environment, animals and respect their natural habitat.