Famed Cambodia elephant officially retires after years of service

The 52-year-old elephant receives a banana during her farewell ceremony (25 November 2014) Image copyright AP
Image caption The elephant will be able to put her feet up in a quiet forest in the north-east of Cambodia

The only working elephant in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, has been blessed by monks ahead of her official retirement after more than 30 years of giving rides to tourists.

Sambo, aged 54, has been a regular at the Wat Phnom temple since 1980.

She has not worked since 2012 because of a combination of a foot infection and complaints from officials that she caused traffic jams.

Cambodia has 78 domesticated and 400 wild elephants, conservationists say.

Asian elephants are classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

'A younger sister'

The retiring elephant will exchange the busy and congested streets of the Cambodian capital for an ecotourism venture in a protected area of forestry in the north-east of the country.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bananas were in abundance during the farewell ceremony
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The years of being a tourist transporter have taken their toll on the retiring elephant

Her handlers say that her retirement there has been made possible by international donations and that she will be allowed to wander freely along with nine other elephants.

Owner Sin Sorn said he would miss her very much.

"I am getting old. So I decided she needed to be with nature... I am going to miss her very much."

He has been with the elephant since his family caught her in the jungle aged eight.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption But despite the hard work, the elephant has not lost any of her gentle nature

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