In a watershed moment for campaigners around the world, elephant rides are set to end at the iconic tourist attraction.


In April 2019, we documented the elephants at Angkor Wat and were heartbroken to see these animals forced to carry tourists along the hard road in the midday sun. It is now a great relief to hear that the elephants, who have been forced to work at the attraction for decades, will finally get the rest that they deserve.

After learning that elephant rides are set to end at the iconic tourist attraction, we used our photographs and research to ensure that this incredible news made international headlines. The story went viral and helped to draw attention to the growing opposition to unethical wildlife attractions.

The use of elephants to ride around the site has long been condemned by campaigners, and received international outrage in 2016 when an elephant collapsed and died from exhaustion after ferrying two tourists to the temple.

Now, The Angkor Elephant Group Committee have told national news in Cambodia that they aim to end their use of elephants to carry tourists by next year. The committee’s director Oan Kiry told The Phnom Penh Post that: “In early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists. They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding centre. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible”.

The end of elephant rides at Angkor Wat is truly a watershed moment that shows the tide is turning against cruel wildlife tourism. More and more tourists no longer want to pay to see animals in chains or captivity, and attractions where elephant riding continues, need to ban these rides if they are to stay in favour with tourists and animal lovers.

It is now up to the committee to ensure that these elephants live out their lives in peace, and that any baby elephants born in the centre are protected, too.

For anyone wishing to report on this news story, all of the images on this page are free-to-use when credited to “Moving Animals”. Footage of elephant riding at Angkor Wat can be requested by emailing amy@movinganimals.org.