Sophany and I are invited to a Behind the Scenes tour of Wildlife Alliance's Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre
May 27. After loading the van, we stop at a market to buy fruit to feed Lucky the 16 year old female elephant. She is very gentle and kind. She was raised at the center from a very young age and so enjoys being around humans.
Our guide Torey. Lucky enjoys people blowing into her trunk as a sign of play and comfort.
Lucky gives us a very special gift of her original art. Only positive reinforcement is used to train her.
Chhouk was a baby when he was found in the wild with a missing foot, most likely caught in a poacher's snare. His stump was severely infected, and so he was brought to the center. He was fitted with a prosthetic foot, and is now on his fourth as he grows. He gets around quite well. See video on phnomtamaozoo.com.
As recently as 50 years ago Cambodia supported an abundance of wild mammals. Today there are fewer than 30 tigers in its forests. Animals rescued and brought to the center are released back into the wild after rehabilitation if possible. These tigers would be poached if set free, and so remain at the center. They have access to their interior and exterior enclosure 24/7.
Cambodia is home to 14 endangered species, one of them is the beautiful Sun Bear. Despite recent efforts, illegal poaching of sun bears continues. Find out more at FreeTheBears.org.
The Gibbon is a small ape with amazing acrobatic skills, their arms are longer than their legs. The female has a hilarious yell.
Devin gives a high five to a 2 week old monkey. The young know the young.
Our final treat, we were allowed inside the enclosure of 4 juvenile monkeys ranging in age from one to four years old. All jewelry was removed. We were told not to show our teeth directly at their face, as that is a sign of aggression. They jumped onto us from all sides to get at the fruit we were holding, not very gently I might add. The entire tour was a very memorable experience!
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Della Barbato has been an informal environmental educator since 2006.