Human Interest

Sambo, elephant who became Cambodian symbol, dies at 63

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct 20 (EFE).- Sambo, the elephant who for decades became a symbol of Phnom Penh and the tragic history of Cambodia, died Thursday night in a sanctuary in the northeast of the country, the organization that cared for her reported. She was 63.

“Today we have some very sad news to share. Our beautiful sweet Sambo has passed away during the night. After a long battle with a tooth infection, her health deteriorated over the last month,” the Elephant Valley Project organization posted on Facebook.

Since her owner settled with her in Phnom Penh in the early 1980s, the elephant became a symbol of the Cambodian capital, where her figure around the Wat Phnom temple became part of the urban landscape.

The 3.2-ton pachyderm suffered all the vicissitudes that marked the history of the country in the last half century: hit by the ups and downs of the Cold War and destroyed by the civil war and the regime of the Khmer Rouge, which caused the death of at least 1.5 million Cambodians.

When the Khmer Rouge took power, Sambo’s owner, Sin Sorn, had to hand her and her five other elephants over to authorities, whose poor care caused the death of all five animals, with Sambo the only survivor.

At the end of the war in 1979, Sin Sorn received news that Sambo had survived and ended up finding her, very weak, in the mountains.

Sorn nursed her back to health and took her with him to Phnom Penh, where she earned a living giving elephant rides to children and tourists who, little by little, arrived to a devastated country.

With the rapid development of Cambodia since the ‘90s, the figure of Sambo in the center of a city became an icon and one of the attractions for tourists, who fed it with fruits.

In 2012 she stopped “working” due to a leg problem and complaints from authorities that she caused traffic jams in a city that had grown at full speed and no longer resembled the one to which she arrived 30 years earlier.

In 2014, aged 54, she separated from her owner, who handed her over to the Elephant Valley Project organization for transfer to the sanctuary they manage in the jungle of the province of Mondolkiri, in the northeast of the country, where she lived in the wild for the last nine years. EFE


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