(CNN) — One of Asia’s most famous tourist attractions is taking a major stand for animals.
Following pressure from animal activist groups, Apsara, the management authority for the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia announced in June 2019 it would ban elephant rides in early 2020.
Now, the process has already begun.
Long Kosal, an Apsara press representative, told the Khmer Times that the remaining dozen animals would be relocated to the same forest by “early next year.”
In this photo taken in 2007, tourists ride elephants inside the Angkor Archaeological Park.
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
“The elephant is a big animal, but it is also gentle and we don’t want to see the animals being used for tourism activities anymore,” Kosal said. “We want them to live in their natural surroundings.”
According to Angkor Enterprise, which manages park admissions, the UNESCO-listed site is facing a decline in tourist numbers.
Its latest report says 1.8 million foreign tourists bought passes to the temple complex from January to September — a 13.7% decline over the same 10-month period in 2018.
While there’s no predicting whether Cambodia’s ban on Angkor elephant rides will impact visitor numbers, it comes at a time when more and more travelers and tourism organizations around the world have moved to eliminate animal-related attractions.