29.05.2011 - 29.05.2011 33 °C
30km southeast of Phnom Penh is Phnom Tamao Zoo. We were fairly apprehensive about visiting a zoo in a developing country; with the fear of supporting the inhumane treatment and caging of animals as was often the practice decades ago when zoos were a place for the rich to visit and see exotic animals up close in 2m x 2m cages. However we breathed a sigh of relief when we entered and saw the beautiful open plan setting of the zoo and large enclosures.
I must say though, if you’re planning on taking a tuk tuk to the zoo like we did, make sure you have a scarf or something to put over your face because you travel most of the way on a sandy, dirt road and the dust is incredible, you may find yourself wearing a mud-mask by the time you arrive .
Also the last few kilometres of the road is lined with beggars (at least 50) sitting in the scorching sun with a sad face and a hand out as you drive past. Unfortunately we had nothing to give them and we felt really bad as our tuk tuk motored past them all while other locals were stopping and handing out food & water.
The moment we stepped out of the tuk tuk we were surrounded by children selling sugarcane that you can feed to the free-roaming deer & monkeys. We bought some so they would stop hassling us and started our walk around the first area of the zoo.
There was a really beautiful blind gibbon in an enclosure. Unfortunately he was all alone because the other gibbons would have picked on him. He kept sticking his arm through the cage and we thought he might have wanted some sugarcane. We put some in his hand but he wasn’t interested. When I got closer he held my arm gently and sat still. He just wanted some personal contact, so we sat with him for half an hour holding hands and making gibbon-like sounds and laughing when he sang back to us loud enough for the whole zoo to hear .
The Phnom Tamao Zoo was first set up as a rescue centre for victims of illegal wildlife trade and is now managed by Wildaid and the Free the Bears Fund. They are doing a great job – although it’s obvious the bears are receiving more than average benefits; their enclosures are amazing! We contemplated volunteering here but unfortunately it was a little bit out of our budget, so I bought a t-shirt instead. The zoo accepts donations and one of the Tiger enclosures was created with a donation from Belinda Emmett and Rove McManus.
^^ Monks at the zoo
^^ Back scratch time
^^ Hugs all round for buying a Free The Bears T-Shirt
^^ Pepsi break with Lot
Our experience at the zoo was really great and we were very happy to see that Cambodia is investing and taking the effort to responsibly house and care for all of the animals.