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Sambo, an elephant used to carry tourists at Angkor Wat, lies on the ground after dying of a suspected heart attack last week. Photo supplied
Sambo, an elephant used to carry tourists at Angkor Wat, lies on the ground after dying of a suspected heart attack last week. Photo supplied

Angkor Wat ‘tourist elephant’ firm pledges to trim hours

The Angkor Elephant Company has pledged to reduce the working hours of its animals following the death last Friday of Sambo, one of 14 elephants it uses to carry tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex, although critics say anything short of their release from captivity is too little.

Elephants previously worked two shifts a day: 7:30am to 10:20am, and 3:30pm to 6pm.

Angkor Elephant Company manager Oan Kiri said yesterday that a decision was taken on Saturday to reduce the morning shift by half an hour and the afternoon shift by 20 minutes.

“We did it the day after Sambo died. After the weather becomes normal, I will reconsider it,” said Kiri. “I have reported this to the owner of the company and he said he has no objection.”

A veterinarian working for the firm concluded Sambo died of a heart attack induced by the sweltering temperatures last Friday, which soared to 40 degrees in nearby Siem Reap that day.

Jack Highwood, deputy director of animal welfare at Mondulkiri-based NGO the Elephant Valley Project, was dismissive of the shift reductions in an email yesterday.

“The elephants should not be there in the first place. They are wild animals that are meant to live in the forest,” he wrote.

“If they are only ‘working’ four hours then they are chained up to a post for 20 hours. Neither of which is ideal.”

Additional reporting by Jack Davies

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