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Sambo’s return to city nixed

A man climbs atop Sambo the elephant at Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace
A man climbs atop Sambo the elephant at Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace in 2000 after a woman with a hose gave Sambo a shower. AFP

Sambo’s return to city nixed

Sambo the elephant will not be allowed to return to work in Phnom Penh, because both City Hall and the Forestry Administration oppose the idea, the FA’s director-general said yesterday.

The 54-year-old Sambo left the city in 2012 after decades of entertaining and giving rides to tourists at Wat Phnom, a job that left her painfully lame and in need of serious rehabilitation.

The Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival foundation (EARS), the organisation that bankrolled her two-year sabbatical, had recently withdrawn financial support, leading the elephant’s owner to start making plans to bring her back to Phnom Penh as a tourist attraction.

But yesterday, Forestry Administration Director-General Chheng Kimsun said he opposed the “exploitative” move and after receiving emails from a large number of people protesting the proposal, and confirmed with Governor Pa Socheatvong that the city would not grant permission.

“His Excellency Pa Socheatvong discussed with me that we have no plan to allow them to come back to Phnom Penh, because the elephant is old and injured. There is no problem since Sambo [is not returning to work], because the governor and I don’t support it, and if the governor doesn’t allow it, [the elephant] cannot go.”

He also called for animal lovers around the world to donate funds to support her retirement. EARS has pledged to pay for Sambo to retire at a sanctuary, but her owner, Sin Sorn, rejected that option.

Sorn said yesterday that while he was still waiting for FA officials to visit the elephant, adding that he had heard that no permission would be granted for her return to the city.

“If this is true, I feel so disappointed with them, because we are the same, as Khmer people, but they do not help.

“I want to appeal to NGOs to help my elephant. The owner of the Chamkar Pring amusement park … has allowed me to take Sambo there, but I do not want to, because they need me to share profits.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche could not confirm whether the governor had made a decision on the matter.

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