1- Do not ride Elephants
For many people, riding on the back of an elephant is the ultimate bucket list experience in Asia. However, there’s now overwhelming evidence to support claims by animal welfare experts that this form of tourism is not only unsustainable but ultimately harmful for Asia’s gentle giants. Many of these incredible animals die because of abuses. In 2016, a 45-year-old Elephant died because of the extreme heat when transporting two tourists in Cambodia.
Unbeknown to many travelers, newly-captive and captive-born Asian elephants are traditionally subject to systematic abuse in order to ‘train’ them to accept riders and perform in shows. It might also come as a surprise to learn that elephants don’t have very strong backs. Experts claim that adult elephants can only support a maximum of around 150kgs on the middle of their back for up to four hours per day, but many of Asian’s elephants work eight-hour shifts, carrying two riders at a time. Metal seats, which tend to be used over lighter bamboo versions, add an extra 50kgs. And this is before factoring in whether these elephants have adequate access to water, healthy food (not just sugary bananas handed out by tour operators) and shade.
Fortunately, if you still wish to interact with Elephants, there are a small but growing number of elephant refuge centers in Cambodia that are employing more sustainable methods to keep tourists, elephants, and their mahouts happy!
2- Be careful when visiting an orphanage
Cambodia is a poor country and there are an enormous number of underprivileged children, as well as a large number of orphanages. In spite of this, visiting an orphanage is often not only an ineffective solution, it actually makes matters worse. Not only does it cause further emotional damage to the children in care, it can also, ironically, create more “orphans”.
Siem Reap, a town of just 100,000, has 35 orphanages. The number or orphanages has increased in line with the number of tourists, as overseas donations and volunteer fees are seen as a way for unscrupulous orphanage staff to make money.
While there are over half a million orphans in Cambodia, less than 1 percent of these are actually in orphanages. Additionally, a 2010 report found that only around a quarter of the 12,000 children living in orphanages are actually orphans; most have at least one parent.
Children may be paraded through streets, taught to beg or perform in order to make money from tourists.
Be aware and try to avoid these practices and you will be able to spend your holidays in Cambodia in a responsible way!