Elephant rides at the famous Angkor Wat will soon be memories of the past as Cambodia plans to ban the activity starting next year.

About 2.5 million tourists reportedly visit the temple every year, many of whom pays for a chance to ride the elephants while touring. However, in an effort to “end the animals’ suffering” at the temple, 14 of the gentle giants will soon be moved to a conservation and breeding center early next year, according to the Angkor Elephant Group Committee.

Many animal rights activists embarked on a mission to end elephant riding in the temple after an elephant collapsed and died while carrying two tourists three years ago.

In a report by The Independent, a veterinarian who examined the elephant claimed the poor animals died “due to high temperatures, heat exhaustion, and lack of wind that would have helped to cool her’. Two years later, another elephant also died from exhaustion.

“In early 2020, our association plans to end the use of elephants to transport tourists,” Oan Kiry, director of the Angkor Elephant Group Committee, said according to a report by the Metro. “They can still watch the elephants and take photos of them in our conservation and breeding center. We want the elephants to live in as natural a manner as possible.”

Experts believe there are rougly 500 elephants left in the wild, including 110 in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary and about 200 in the Cardamom Mountains. 

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