PHNOM PENH • A petition to end elephant rides in Angkor Wat has been signed by more than 12,000 people after an elderly female elephant trained to carry tourists collapsed and died last Friday.
According to The Phnom Penh Post, the elephant named Sambo, thought to be about 40 to 45 years old, died near Bakheng Mountain, shortly after taking two tourists to one of the archeological park's temples.
It had been walking for about 40 minutes, said a spokesman for the Angkor Elephant company, who added that it was saddened by the loss. The elephant had been with the company since 2001.
"After our veterinarian checked... we concluded that she died of a heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind," the spokesman told the paper.
The temperature in Siem Reap reportedly hit a scorching 40 deg C on Friday.
Photos posted on Facebook by user Yem Senok, which showed the elephant lying on its side by the road, were shared over 8,000 times and sparked an outcry on social media.
One writer begged travellers to "please be a compassionate tourist and do not ever ride an elephant".
A number of visitors who saw the elephant lying dead on the roadside are reported to have wept, reported The Daily Mail.
The petition calling for an end to elephant rides in Angkor Wat was put up on change.org.
According to Mr Jack Highwood of the Cambodia-based conservation group Elephant Valley Project, there are still 13 elephants working for the Angkor Elephant Company, the largest concentration of captive elephants in the country.
"Conditions should be regulated if working Cambodia's last remaining elephants is what Cambodia actually wants to do," he told The Daily Mail.