Cambodia's decision came as a shock to both tourists visiting the country and its Angkor temples, as well as environmental organizations fighting to improve the fate of captive elephants. Angkor is Cambodia's biggest tourist attraction and one of the biggest in Asia, if not the world. The huge temple complex in the former capital of the Khmer Empire, which existed in Indochina and Malaya from the 9th to the 15th centuries, attracts thousands of people. At 162 hectares, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.
It requires a ride. Getting there on foot is almost impossible, so thousands of tourists use tuktuks, cars, scooters and bicycles. However, elephants were a very popular means of transportation at Angkor. And it's been that way for years.
The sight of elephants carrying guests on their backs was a real part of this complex. The giants appeared on postcards, magnets, and advertising brochures and were an added attraction for visitors who never had the opportunity to take advantage of such a ride. I might add that it was often uphill, and often in extreme temperatures.
They won't have the chance anymore. Cambodia imposed a ban on the use of elephants to transport tourists in the Angkor complex in 2018 It came into force in 2020. Today, the roads between the temples are clear of these animals, and the distinctive elephant stands with platforms for hanging on their backs are also empty. Tourists ask about elephants, but the answer is clear: ban them.
– We decided that using these animals for tourism purposes is not appropriate. It is better for them to live in the natural environment, Long Kosal, a spokesman for Apsara Authority, which deals with the use of elephants, said in a 2018 statement. However, we “realized” that this happened after one of the elephants collapsed after a long day of work and was carrying tourists after a 45-minute ride with people on her back. She never rose again, and her death sparked massive protests around the world.
Cambodia received a petition containing several thousand signatures and rejected arguments that advanced age was the cause of the animal's death. She also rejected the idea of limiting or regulating the work of elephants, and forcing their owners to provide them with money for a decent retirement. I simply banned the practice.
The ban initially applied only at the Angkor complex and came into effect two years later Exemption lawin 2020. It was a huge shock, because no one had ever taken such a radical step against cancer. Cambodia has been at the forefront and announced that if a place like Angkor Wat turns out to be able to survive without elephants, their use will be banned throughout the country.
After four years, it turns out you can manage. Some tourists who were here before 2020 or read old guidebooks are surprised because they “wanted to ride an elephant” and then post photos on social media. However, this is impossible, and what is more, Cambodia has also joined the l education campaignEncourage them not to decide on such trips just to get online impressions and likes.
It's not just about the effort of the animal itself, which may seem trivial considering its weight. An animal weighing several tons carries people like flies on its back, but even this weight requires it. “Continuous pressure on elephants' bodies can damage the tissue and bones of their backs, causing irreparable physical damage to their spines,” WFTT's Edwin Wick told CNN. In addition to their working conditions, in light of the heat and the lack of adequate water and food. In order to adapt the elephants to work, and force them to be gentle and obedient, which is a condition for avoiding accidents with tourists, their psychology is broken and torture is used. This is what it's called Fagan That is: breaking an elephant.
However, the case is still not fully resolved. Although the Elephant Reserve was established in Cambodia north of Siem Reap, it covers an area of 32,000 square metres. Acres, on the edge of the Kulen Promtep Nature Reserve However, in this province and in Cambodia as a whole, riding elephants and using them for work is still permitted. Cambodia had intended to implement a nationwide ban but has not yet done so.
As well as other countries. Thailand employs nearly 1,000 for work. Elephants, and on the Better in Thailand website we read: “It is important to keep in mind the truth of this Elephants are an integral part of Thailand. They are ubiquitous in Thai culture, history, religion and symbolism. “The image of brave men catching and taming wild elephants or kings leading an army over them in battle is romantic and enduring, and for the Thai people it is a proud part of their history.”
The use of elephants is common in many other South Asian countries. On a small scale in agriculture, because it has been replaced by machines, as for tourism. In Sri Lanka there are many families who depend on these animals to earn a living. They also operate in Laos, Indonesia and to a lesser extent Vietnam and India. Moreover, they were also considered untrainable for a long time African elephants take tourists on safaris in countries such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For now, the ban is being imposed reluctantly, but Cambodia has paved the way. In 2019, the Supreme Court of India allowed PETA to intervene in the case of elephant riding in Amer Fort and elephant exploitation in Jaipur. More than 200 kilograms were loaded on their backs. Finally, the pandemic played a big role. She refuted the argument that elephant owners need to use them for conservation. During the epidemic, tourism stopped and many animals were transferred to reserves and zoos or even released into the forests. This was the case, for example, at Mesa Elephant Park in the tourist city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The problem is that these animals have not been trained to live in such conditions.
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