Elephant rides have long been a tourist attraction at the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but local authorities are bringing the practice to an end.
The Elephant Management Association, in cooperation with the Apsara Authority, is banning the practice at the Angkor Wat temple complex and the new rules are set to kick off in early 2020.Local authorities announced earlier this year they would be banning the practice, but the process is already being put in place as the 14 elephants are already gradually being relocated to a nearby community forest where they will live out the rest of their lives.
Long Kosal, a spokesperson for Apsara Authority, told Khmer Times : "The elephant is a big animal, but it is also gentle and we don’t want to see the animals being used for tourism activities anymore. We want them to live in their natural surroundings."
Animal rights groups have long fought to end the practice of elephant rides around the world, which they say often includes mistreatment of the creatures who have their spirits 'broken' as part of their training.
PETA has previously argued that elephants used for rides at attractions around the world are beaten into submission and forced to perform tricks - in some cases they are also kept in chains.
In 2016, the case of Sambo the elephant at Angkor Wat made headlines around the world after she collapsed and died , having carried tourists in 40C heat.
James Thornton, CEO at Intrepid Travel, told Mirror Online: "Elephant riding was once on every travellers bucket list. Now we know better.
"In 2010 Intrepid sponsored World Animal Protection research that was so compelling that we became the first global tour operator to remove elephant rides from all our trips.
"We’re thrilled to see the change that has happened in the industry since then and congratulate Angkor Wat for showing such strong leadership. It shows that travellers are demanding animal-friendly experiences and we hope to see other visitor attractions in Asia follow in its footsteps."
Want to see elephants on your holiday?
Check out the experts' top tips on elephant-friendly travel on how to see the creatures without causing them any stress or harm. That includes advice on researching elephant sanctuaries for your trip and the red flags to look out for during your itinerary planning.
We've also got a general guide for animal-friendly travel if you're hoping to see more wildlife during your holiday.