Khiri Marks World Wildlife Day with Conservation Trip
In honour of World Wildlife Day, Khiri Travel Cambodia invited a number of guests on a bus trip to visit Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (PTWRC) on March 3. Run by Wildlife Alliance, PTWRC’s zoological park is situated only 40 km south of Phnom Penh.
Among the guests were two professional Cambodian guides from Phnom Penh; two members of staff from a local hotel supplier; Mamina Muyldermans, a volunteer from WWF based in Phnom Penh; Korn Vanda, a veterinarian from the Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia; two interns based in Khiri Travel’s Phnom Penh office; and two students from Western International School.
After setting off from Phnom Penh to Phnom Tamao, our two guides shared some details about the true nature and habits of animals at PTWRC, and how we can help protect them. Also discussed were Cambodia’s eco-system and the importance of finding ways to protect and save it.
Our two guides were locals from the community who have been trained by Wildlife Alliance. They are based at PTWRC and spend a lot of time explaining the center’s programs, its history and the purpose of the zoological park. They have a huge knowledge of all the animals at PTWRC and what has to be done to reintroduce them into the wild. Khiri Travel’s guests on the bus not only learned about what is being done to help care for wildlife, but what we can do to help protect it.
There are a lot of different species to be seen at PTWRC, including slow loris; tortoise; pangolin; banteng; gaur; pileated gibbon, clouded leopard, binturong, smooth-coated otter, sambar deer, tiger and many tropical birds. All these animals and more were either rescued from hunters, the pet trade or from illegal wildlife traffickers.
After they have been rescued they are taken care of and nursed back to health before being released back into the forests – mostly into areas around the Cardamom Mountains, Koh Kong and Mondulkiri – which are protected habitats. Some sadly will never be able to fend for themselves in the wild and so they need long-term care, which the centre also provides.
During the behind-the-scenes tour of the centre, Khiri Travel guests got to meet ‘Lucky’, a 17-year-old Asian elephant, who was rescued and now lives onsite at PTWRC with her keeper. Her friendliness and curiosity surprised us all! For many in our group, this was the first time they had experienced being close up to a live elephant which they could feed bananas, coconuts and potatoes to!
Following this encounter, the PTWRC guides talked about the plight of elephants in Cambodia and how in Phnom Bakheng and Siem Reap they are being used to carry tourists up and down hills to see the temples at these locations.
They explained that many of the owners are only interested in making a profit from the rides and do not care if the elephants are overworked or in poor health. This has led to the death of some elephants like ‘Sambor’, a bull elephant who died last year from heatstroke after being overworked.
There are also troops of monkeys living freely around PTWRC which are more self-sufficient than other species. When locals come to visit they often bring food for them whereas in the past, they would probably have killed them or chased them away.
One of our guides explained how through education and training, many local village people have now abandoned hunting practices and instead earn a living by working and helping PTWRC. Some of them have set up businesses that work closely with the rescue centre – like a small restaurant for the staff and guests, or a farm that grows vegetables for the restaurant, or to use as animal feed.
Credit photo to PTWRC website
The PTWRC’s main activities focus on working with local communities to get them involved with protection and stewardship; showing them how they can make a living without destroying the natural resources, and developing a respect and understanding for wildlife.
The PTWRC also emphasizes the importance of releasing young animals born in captivity back into the wild and rescuing and rehabilitating animals that have been hurt in the wild by trapping or hunting, so as to give populations a chance to recover.
Everyone who joined the trip was very grateful to the PTWRC and Khiri Travel as it had given them a chance to learn more about sustainable tourism practices, wildlife rehabilitation and protection. These concepts can now be incorporated into future Khiri Travel tours and clients will be encouraged to get others involved in Cambodia’s wildlife conservation programs.
A big thank you goes out to the guides, staff and rangers of Wildlife Alliance and PTWRC for their amazing work.