An elephant in Cambodia, named Sambo, has died after giving rides to tourists in the scorching heat on April 22, Earth Day.
Sambo was working at the archaeological park Angkor Wat when she collapsed, said The Phnom Penh Post. The elephant, who was about 40 to 45-years-old, had been working for the Elephant Company since 2001. The manager, Oan Kiri, said the staff was saddened by the death of Sambo.
Kiri said the elephant died after making two trips from Bayon Temple to Bakheng, a total of 40 minutes walking, and collapsed shortly after bringing two tourists to Bayon.
“After our veterinarian checked … we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind,” said Kiri. The temperature on that day was a record high of 104 degrees fahrenheit.
A Cambodian tour operator said it would reduce work hours for elephants during high temperatures after the death of Sambo, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, a petition has launched on Change.org calling for an end to elephant rides at Angkor Wat altogether.
“The recent death of an elephant, used for tourist rides, at the Angkor temples should be the final wake-up call for the community and tourism industry to take the steps needed to end this horrific practice,” said the petition.
“There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides. Tourists may think that riding an elephant on holiday does not cause harm—you often can’t see the cruelty—it’s hidden from view. What you don’t realise is that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘bucket list’ item for you, means a lifetime of misery for wild animals,” it continued.
The petition asked APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) to ban elephant riding at Angkor.
A separate petition was started by the World Animal Protection, which demands vacation booking company TripAdvisor to stop promoting and selling tickets to cruel wildlife tourist attractions.
“With its 2015 income reaching almost $1.5bn, TripAdvisor Inc.’s influence on the tourism industry is immense. But it is choosing to profit from the horrific abuse of wild animals in tourist entertainment rather than help protect them,” said the petition from the World Animal Protection.
According to the organization, the University of Oxford studied 188 wildlife venues promoted on TripAdvisor, and found that 75 percent of the different types of attractions involved animal cruelty. TripAdvisor’s Viator, a travel and tour booking company it bought in 2014, sells tickets for a number of those attractions.
The organization calls on tourists to practice animal friendly tourism.
“Avoid riding wild animals like elephants for entertainment: These animals are often captured from the wild, badly cared for, and trained using inappropriate and cruel methods,” said the World Animal Protection.