Monkeys, Tigers, and Bears

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).

This little guy is an extremely rare hairy-nosed otter.

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!

14 responses to “Monkeys, Tigers, and Bears

  1. Wonderful photos! And the videos are cute………

  2. I enjoyed a visit to the zoo a few months ago and was also pleasantly surprised how good it was, I expected it to be much shabbier and the animals poorly looked after but that wasn’t the case as far as I saw. Wildaid seem to have done some great work there with the zoo keepers to introduce good standards of care. However, with more monkeys outside the cages than inside you need to be careful, and the otters begging & screaming for food with outstretched arms was pitiful. Its a big place and you need transport to get around, don’t count on walking it! Unfortunately my photos from my zoo visit (and a wedding party that same day) were lost when my camera was stolen – though a good excuse to revisit the zoo again of course.
    The large puppet-like characters were there on my visit too, as were the scores of elderly people lining the access road looking for hand-outs.
    Isn’t Tonle Bati well kept? The local laymen and women take great pride in their temple and its spotless. I always enjoy a visit there as its such an interesting prasat. I blogged it a few months ago.
    In that area are a few genocide memorials that not many people are aware of and which these days are falling into disrepair. I know time heals and we all move on but I also think its important that the lost souls are remembered and I hope families continue to do that in the future.
    hope to finally meet up soon.

  3. Hey Andy, That is a bummer about your camera! That is a good point about having transportation. The Zoo is HUGE and it looks like there is lots of room for it to grow too. Tonle Bati was very nice, although I made the mistake of not bringing enough small bills and the old ladies seemed annoyed I wasn’t donating very much at each little Buddha statue (there are quite a few at Ta Prohm).
    We should get together soon, I’ll send an email!

  4. Those are great pictures! I enjoyed looking at them so much. It’s pretty neat that you can get so close to the animals. That one deer looking for food makes the same exact face as James when he’s begging for grub.

  5. Good to know that animals are well taking care off. Liked the picture of the two large puppets; reading your posts, almost make me feel that I am there too, that is fun.

  6. Just a note – I represent Wildlife Alliance. When the signs for Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center were erected, we operated under the name WildAid. Now, our Care for Rescued Wildlife work at the Rescue Center and our other programs in Cambodia are under the name Wildlife Alliance. More information is at Thank you!

  7. WOW! I had no idea “our” Rachel was there, too! You both look so beautiful – that picture was the icing, I must say. Please BOTH consider yourselves hugged…and Alison, I loved the zoo pictures. I’m just so enjoying my opportunity to experience a place so far away through your words and pictures…. Megwetch!

  8. Very interesting journey. Great photography!

  9. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Cambodia: Pictures of wildlife sanctuary

  10. hallo!! ciao da Venezia Italy

  11. awesome photos, Alison! I’m not normally a zoo fan but now I’m thinking I need to check out the PP zoo myself…maybe they’ll even let me do an Extreme Khmer episode on it…?

  12. The zoo would make a great extreme khmer episode! Although watch out that those gibbons don’t try to steal your camera…..

  13. awesome zoo photos. they could be on cuteoverload or cheezburger. i love the deer especially!

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