After retirement, elephant in Cambodia tries to forget

An urban elephant used for tourism in Cambodia retires from the hot asphalt streets of Phnom Penh after thirty years of work.

Julie Masis
Sambo in a pen with soft sand under her feet.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Visitors to Cambodia’s capital may be missing a well-known icon. Sambo, the 51-year-old female elephant who has given rides to tourists for 30 years and was one of Southeast Asia’s last working urban elephants, has retired.

The elephant needed treatment for her feet, says Louise Rogerson, the chief executive officer of the Hong Kong-based Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival foundation. According to Ms. Rogerson, years of walking on hot, hard asphalt streets eventually took its toll on Sambo, who has been relocated outside the city limits.

Rogerson says Sambo’s retirement is a sign of progress for the care of elephants living in captivity. “I don’t believe that elephants should be working in the city,” she says.

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