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Sunday, 13 November 2011
Plea to “retire” tourist Elephant in Cambodia
Sambo is a 51 year old female elephant in Phnom Penh in Cambodia and her “job” is to give tourists rides.
The people at EARS, the Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival Foundation http://www.earsasia.org/home.html have written to tell us all about this sad story.
Sambo would have been captured, wrenched away from her family as an infant in the wilds of Cambodia and ‘domesticated’, enduring the frightening, painful and cruel training methods that seem common world-wide for elephants being ‘broken’ for a life in captivity.
This is itself is an extremely traumatic experience, and like humans, elephants feel deep loss and pain.
Sambo has to carry tourists around the Wat Phnom temple in a heavy chair strapped to her back, wearing rubber shoes to protect the sensitive soles of her feet from the hot pavements, but other than that her owner has neglected her foot care is being neglected. Elephants in the wild are fastidious about their feet. In the wild elephants will often walk many miles a day, across and through many different substrates, some moisturizing, some abrasive. Wild elephants will use
their feet when grazing, specifically their toes, to strike and sever bamboo and coarse blades of grass. This continual striking across the abrasive grasses benefits the feet by wearing the area between the toes where the nails and cuticles can overgrow. Routine grazing aids foot health by
naturally manicuring the cuticles and nails.
Poor Sambo’s feet are kept covered in the rubber shoes while working and then she is returned to a two-acre compound of damp, grassy wasteland behind a casino, which is also used as a coach park. In such unsuitable surroundings it is vital that she receives good, routine foot care but this is clearly not happening.
Born Free Foundation’s Senior Veterinary Consultant, John Knight reports that Sambo’s condition is poor and she has major foot damage and appears to be in severe pain. She continually raises her right back foot to relieve the pressure on a large, deep abyss in the sole of that foot. “This animal needs to be rested, to be properly
examined, and she may need radiology and other tests to
fully assess her condition. With proper veterinary attention it may be possible to make a substantial improvement to her condition but treatment, rest and improved management needs to start straight away.”
Thanks to letters already written to the authorities, Sambo has had her working days reduced from a whopping seven days a week, to four days on / three days off. This is considered by those supporting Sambo’s cause as a step in the right direction – but it’s just not good enough.
There needs to be a TOTAL BAN on elephant capture, ride and domestication. Not only in Cambodia but worldwide.
Thailand has banned elephants from the cities because of complaints from tourists and to prevent traffic accidents. This is due to pressure from people like yourselves and that the country wants to improve its image and keep tourists safe and happy. This is a good step forward but you can still ride elephants and see them perform in shows all throughout Thailand.
Cambodia is starting to look at improving its image with international visitors and recently Phnom Penh authorities requested that macaque monkeys at Wat Phnom temple (where Sambo is worked) were moved to an animal rescue centre as many tourists had been bitten. Funny that, eh?
It would be fantastic if Sambo too could have a new home. It’s too late for Sambo to be returned to the wild but she deserves a restful, pampered retirement and there are elephant sanctuaries in Cambodia that can take Sambo. We need to persuade the authorities to insist her owner retire her.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
In Asian culture, it is important to allow people to “save face” and we must be polite and respectful in how we champion this cause.
Please write to the authorities below. In written letter is preferable to email – but if you don’t have time or can’t see yourself typing up a letter and popping it in the post box then by all means email away! Better an email than nothing at all….
EARS suggest the following approach:
Say… “you welcome the fact that Sambo has had her working hours reduced but unfortunately this is not enough. She needs to be taken out of work immediately, and receive urgent veterinary treatment for the appalling condition of her feet. She is likely to be enduring great pain at this time. She also needs to be re-homed to a sanctuary in Cambodia where she can be provided with elephant company and care and a lifestyle appropriate for this species.
It is vital that Sambo is not merely retired and replaced so can you point out, politely, that there needs to be a ban on elephants living and working in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh is a fascinating city with stunning architecture and much to delight the visitor; the archaic sight of an elephant giving rides in the city can only harm the image international visitors will receive.
1. GOVERNOR OF PHNOM PENH:
Mr H.E Kep Chuk Tema, Governor of Phnom Penh
No. 69 Preah Monivong Boulevard
Sangkat Wat Phnom
Khan Daun Penh
2. DIRECTOR GENERAL OF FORESTRY ADMINISTRATION:
Mr H.E Cheng Kimsun, Royal Delegate in Charge of Director
No. 200 Norodom Boulevard
3. MINISTER OF TOURISM:
Mr H.E Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism
No. 3 Preah Monivong Boulevard
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
For more information and progress on the campaign to help Sambo please click here.
Sambo at work, strapped into the chair for tourists to sit in, wearing rubber soles to protect her feet