A female elephant named Sambo, trained to carry tourists at Angkor Wat, collapsed and died on Friday morning near Bakheng Mountain in the archaeological park.
The 40-to-45-year-old elephant had worked for the Angkor Elephant Company since 2001, according to manager Oan Kiri, who said the company was saddened by the loss.
According to Kiri, Sambo died after taking two trips from Bayon Temple to Bakheng, having walked about 40 minutes, collapsing shortly after bringing a pair of tourists to Bayon.
“After our veterinarian checked . . . we concluded that she died of heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind,” he said. Siem Reap recorded a high of 40 degrees Celsius on Friday.
A Facebook post showing photos of Sambo on the ground has been shared over 8,000 times. A change.org petition calling for the end of elephant riding in Angkor went online shortly thereafter and has garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
Apsara Authority spokeswoman Chau Sun Kerya declined to comment.
Jack Highwood of the Elephant Valley Project, said in an email that the Angkor elephant company’s 13 remaining individuals represent the largest concentration of captive elephants in the Kingdom and that work conditions should be regulated “if working Cambodia’s last remaining elephants is what Cambodia actually wants to do”.