PHNOM PENH, April 26 (FN) — Thousands of people are calling for an end to wildlife tourism rides in a Cambodia park after an elephant dropped dead from exhaustion.

The elderly elephant Sambo, believed to be aged between 40 and 45, had been walking for about 40 minutes around at the country's famed Angkor Wat in scorching heat before she collapsed and died on Friday.

Sambo started working for the Angkor Elephant Company in 2001 and was trained to give lifts at the archaeological park in Siem Reap.

It quoted Oan Kiri, manager of the company, as saying that Sambo died of fatal heart attack due to high temperatures and lack of wind.

Friday's tragedy has sparked an online petition, which has been signed by more than 22,400 people and called for an end to elephant riding at the spot.

"A cruel tourist attraction that is proven to be harmful to elephants and can only damage the tourism industry of Cambodia, must finally come to an end," adding that the elephant's death should be the "final wake-up call" for the community and industry to take steps.

"There is no such a thing as cruelty-free elephant rides. Tourists may think that riding an elephant on holiday does not cause harm — you often can't see the cruelty — it's hidden from view," it added.

At least 550,000 wild animals are suffering at the hands of irresponsible tourist attractions around the world, according to estimates in an article posted on the website of World Animal Protection, an international non-profit animal welfare organization, on Monday.