A female elephant was carrying tourists to the Cambodian temple complex of Angkor Wat when she collapsed and died on Friday morning.
The 40 to 45-year-old elephant named Sambo had worked for the Angkor Elephant Company since 2001. The age of the animal suggested that it was towards the end of the lifespan of an Asian elephant. The animal had walked for 40 minutes, which included two trips from Bayon Temple to Bakheng, before she collapsed.
Oan Kiri, manager of the Angkor Elephant Company, said that the company was saddened by the animal’s death, as reported by the Phnom Penh Post. “After our veterinarian checked . . . we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind.”
The elephant was working in a 104 degrees Fahrenheit heatwave, BBC News reported.
In the wake of the tragic incident, numerous people have signed a petition calling for a ban on elephant riding. The change.org petition has accumulated over 1,000 signatures. The tour operator has said that it will reduce the number of working hours for the elephants until temperatures drop.
The petition adds that cruelty is mostly “hidden from view,” leading to a “lifetime of misery” for the animals. The death of Sambo, the petition says, should be a “wake up call.”
A picture of Sambo lying on the ground, posted on Facebook, was shared around 8,000 times.
A list created by the World Animal Protection for campaign purposes notes elephant riding to be the cruelest holiday activity. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified Asian elephants to be an endangered species; with 70 animals remaining in Cambodia.
Jack Highwood of the Elephant Valley Project said that the Angkor Elephant Company has the highest concentration of captive elephants in the country; with 13 elephants, Highwood said that working conditions of the animals need to be regulated “if working Cambodia’s last remaining elephants is what Cambodia actually wants to do.”