Petitions against elephant riding are circulating around the world after an elderly elephant ferrying tourists to the Angkor Wat temple complex dropped dead in a 40C heatwave.
The tour operator behind the ride has pledged to reduce elephants’ working hours until temperatures fall, the BBC reports, but animal rights groups are demanding that authorities in the Angkor region ban elephant-riding altogether.
The dead elephant was reportedly aged between 40 and 45 years, which is towards the end of an Asian elephant’s lifespan.
Elephant rides are popular with tourists, but World Animal Protection (WAP) says they cause “huge suffering for the animals” behind the scenes.
“Taken from their mothers when young, they are isolated, starved and beaten until their spirits are broken in a barbaric training method known as ‘the crush’.
“These baby elephants often suffer from bloody wounds inflicted during these beatings, and the great trauma they endure stays with them throughout their lives, and can leave them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
WAP says about 3000 elephants are “suffering in captivity today in cruel entertainment venues across Asia and Southern Africa”.
Asian elephants are classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are about 70 domesticated elephants in Cambodia.
Written by Peter Needham