An elephant that had been forced to carry people on its back for 15 years in Cambodia’s tourism industry has collapsed and died after transporting two tourists on its back in blistering heat.
The elderly female elephant, Sambo, collapsed on the roadside while carrying two tourists to an ancient Cambodian temple in Angkor Wat near Bakheng Mountain. According to the veterinarian who examined her, Sambo had died from a heart attack due to over exhaustion from working in high temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and a lack of wind to help cool her down.
Daily Mail reported that the fatal heart attack occured while Sambo was transporting two tourists, one at a time, to the temple for 40 minutes. Sambo, who is between 40 and 45 years old, has been working for the Angkor Elephant Company since 2001. Manager of the company, Oan Kiri, said of the lost:
“We’re all very sad to have lost her.”
Facebook user Yem Senok posted a picture of the collapsed elephant on the ground, which has been shared over 8,000 times. Animal activists are outraged and demanding answers as to why Sambo was forced to work in such weather conditions.
A change.org petition rallying for the end of elephant riding at Angkor Wat has since received 12,000 signatures from supporters. Jack Highwood, program manager of Elephant Valley Project, leads the initiative to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants. According to Highwood, the Angkor Elephant Company has 13 remaining elephants that make up the largest concentration of captive elephants in Cambodia. Highwood said:
“Conditions should be regulated, if working Cambodia’s last remaining elephants is what Cambodia actually wants to do.”