Today I finally got to visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary just outside of Phnom Penh in Takeo province. Despite what you might be thinking about what a zoo in a country with a poor human rights record looks like, I was pretty pleasantly surprised* about the zoo. The zoo is run by the Cambodian government with help from NGOs Wild Aid and the Free the Bears organization. There are heaps of animals and what is quite exciting is how close you can get to them. After the zoo, we stopped by the nearby picnic spot Tonle Bati and checked out a couple Angkorian period temples there. Photos (and even some videos!) after the jump.
Above: My friend Rachel gets to know a Gibbon.
Above: Some Sambar deer (who were very friendly) REALLY want some bananas
This little deer was very skittish but would come close to see if you had any food anyway.
I love the horns on this guy. And that he’s making a funny face for me.
Elsewhere in the park there was an Albino Sambar deer
Cambodia, and the park by extension, has a really impressive variety of rare and beautiful birds. My ignorance of birds is deep however and I have no idea what kind this guy is (Heron?). He was large, but definitely looked the worse for wear. We were told he was close to death.
Elsewhere in the park we saw this owl…
And a peacock (among dozens of other types of birds).
Here is a pig (warthog?) just chilling
These otters just wanted food and one of them was loudly barking (check out the video below).
These leopards seemed bored with our presence.
But this tiger wouldn’t mind having us for dinner
This Male Gibbon was pretty aggressive and tried to grab my friend
But this one just wanted someone to scratch its back.
These Gaur are very rare in Cambodia and had a distinctly gamey smell.
But don’t let this face fool you, one wild gaur recently gorged 3 people in Cambodia.
This Palm Civet can see into your soul.
There is a large Sun Bear population here too.
Of course it wouldn’t be a zoo with out elephants.
This one named Lucky could do tricks and dance (see video below).
Even some ants were putting on a show, carrying a dead spider back to their nest.
On our way out of the park you go down a long road filled with older people begging for money and food. However, at once stop two large puppets were performing and dancing for money for the local wat. As with most charming moments I’ve experienced in Cambodia, this was totally unexpected.
Still with me? Our last stop was at the nearby popular picnic spot of Tonle Bati. Here’s the little lake where you can rent a little bamboo table and enjoy a picnic
Near this spot is a modern pagoda and two small Angkorian temples. The first is a 12th century temple called Ta Prohm built by the prolific builder Jayavarman VII (famous for the Bayon and Angkor Thom in Siem Reap). LIke Phnom Chiso, it’s still being used by local worshippers and has a lot of nice landscaping.
Like Phnom Tamao zoo, this spot was popular with locals
The other temple was a small little prasat called Yay Peau. Here’s myself and my friend Rachel in front of the temple after being showered in flowers by several local kids.
Phew after that long day, I’m ready for a nap!