Cambodia bans elephant rides in Angkor Wat

Triumph alert for animal lovers!

The Angkor Elephant Group Committee in Siem Reap has announced that elephant rides will no longer be offered to tourists starting next year. “By early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists. They can still watch the elephants and take a photos of them in our conservation and breeding center, but we want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible,” the group director Oan Kiry told The Phnom Penh Post.

The news is a huge win for animal lovers. The increasing awareness among travelers and people involved in wildlife tourism is also reshaping the industry further. One great example is how travel and restaurant website TripAdvisor has implemented a “no touching of wild animals” policy, which banned promotions and ticket sales of elephant riding attractions (and similar attractions), with more travel agencies following suit.

Our fellow Smile readers can also be a force for change. Here are a few tips on how you can help when you’re traveling:

  • Avoid attractions where tourists are allowed to ride elephants. Maria Mossman, founder of non-profit group Action for Elephants UK, advises tourists to avoid attractions where elephants are made to exhibit unnatural behavior. “Never go to a park that advertises shows, unnatural behavior, tricks, or painting—and please, never ride an elephant,” she said in article published in The Guardian.
  • Support only places and attractions that limit direct contact with animals. Visit genuine sanctuaries and conservation centers. Note that some are only sanctuaries in name and not in practice, so it’s very important to do your research before booking a ticket. Try reading up on cambodiawildlifesanctuary.org; elephantvalleyproject.org; mondulkiriproject.org or mondulkirisanctuary.org.
  • Get on social media and add peer reviews. Speak about the legitimate sanctuaries that need more support from travelers and warn other tourists about attractions that they shouldn’t visit. Vicki Brown, editor at Responsible Travel tells The Guardian: “Do your bit by leaving your own review to warn other travelers. It really does work—many camps are now becoming ride-free as a result of pressure from tourists, the industry and the media.”

Alternative attractions

If you’re looking for alternative attractions to visit in Siam Reap, there are a number of places you can seek out and activities you can do:

  • Enjoy the hip and eclectic vibe of Kandal Village
  • Check out the lesser known shrines of Preah Ang Chek and Preah Ang Chorm and Ya Tep
  • Go on a private tour of Tonle Sap Lake and take in a view of the beautiful sunset

Cebu Pacific Air flies to Siem Reap from Manila. cebupacificair.com

Written by

Maggie Adan

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