An elephant’s death has prompted a petition to end elephant riding at a prominent Cambodian monument.
While carrying tourists to the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the largest religious monument in the world, Sambo the elephant reportedly collapsed and died.
"After our veterinarian checked […] we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind," Oan Kiri, manager of the Angkor Elephant Company, said, according to The Mirror. On the day of her death, the elephant had been working for about 40 minutes in 104-degree Fahrenheit heat.
Sambo had been working for the Angkor Elephant Company since 2001, The Daily Mail reports. The animal was estimated to be between 40 and 45 years old, which has prompted animal activists to question why she was forced to carry tourists in such extreme weather conditions at her age.
Briton Jack Highwood, head of the Elephant Valley Project, said there should be regulations regarding working conditions for animals. The Angkor Elephant Company has 13 animals left, the largest concentration of captive elephants in Cambodia.
"Conditions should be regulated if working Cambodia’s last remaining elephants is what Cambodia actually wants to do," Highwood said, according to The Daily Mail.
Photos of the elephant were posted on Yem Senok’s Facebook page and have been shared over 8,000 times in three days.
Following the incident, an online petition at Change.org was launched to ask the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) to ban elephant riding at the prominent temple.
According to the petition, elephant riding "is proven to be harmful to animals" and Sambo’s death "should be the final wake-up call for the community and tourism industry to take the steps needed to end this horrific practice."
"There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides," the petition reads. "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 [realize] is that a ‘once in a lifetime’ or 'bucket list' item for you, means a lifetime of misery for wild animals."
According to the petition, 114 global companies no longer work with venues that offer elephant rides and shows, thanks to the efforts of World Animal Protection.
"This is a clear sign that times are changing and the leaders of tourism industries understand and agree that this practice must end," the petition concluded.
As of April 25, the Change.org petition has received over 16,500 signatures; its goal is 25,000 signatures. APSARA has yet to comment on the incident or the petition, according to The Mirror.