Published: February 8th 2010February 8th 2010
Our Betelnut Tour Guide
It's 95 degrees with 100% humidity, but we were in the back of the jeep, so the wind was crazy :) We were sweating; she was cool and lovely :)
Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary is a treasure in Cambodia! It's a great day trip outside of Phnom Penh in a beautiful area on the way to Kep. All the animals have been rescued from abuse or trafficking situations. They are provided medical care and rehabilitated so they can go back out into protected areas within Cambodia. I went out there a few times with Ben and some friends. It's a lot of fun and we learn so much about the animals, Cambodia's struggle to keep traffickers from capturing animals and taking them out of the country to be abused, tortured, and killed (often for "natural" medicinal purposes...you can do more research on the internet). I'd write more, but Lonely Planet says it just as well as I would :)....see their excerpt below (I did add some to their description). We also used the Betelnut tours that they talk about at the end. The jeep ride out there was so fun and our guide was wonderful!
"Cambodia’s foremost wildlife sanctuary, Phnom Tamao (www.cambodianwildliferescue.org; admission US$5) is a home for animals confiscated from traffickers or saved from poachers traps. It occupies a vast site south of the capital and its animals are
kept in varying conditions that are rapidly improving with help from international wildlife NGOs. Spread out as it is, it feels like a zoo crossed with a safari park. The way things are developing, Phnom Tamao is set to become one of the region’s best-run animal sanctuaries in the coming years. Many international and Cambodian wildlife protection agencies, such as WildAid, run and support the center, and provide health care and rehabilitation for the animals.
Popular enclosures include huge areas for the large tiger population, and there are elephants that sometimes take part in activities such as painting. There is also a walk-through area with macaques and deer and a huge menagerie, including some rare birds from around Cambodia.
The centre is home to the world’s largest captive collections of pileated gibbons and Malayan sun bears, as well as other rarities such as Siamese crocodiles and greater adjutant storks. Wherever possible animals are released back into the wild once they have recovered and the centre operates breeding programs for a number of globally threatened species.
Cambodia’s wildlife is usually very difficult to spot, as larger mammals inhabit remote and inhospitable areas of the country. Phnom Tamao is
the perfect place to discover more about the incredible variety of animals in Cambodia. You will also see what happens to those animals who are rescued from abuse and trafficking.
If you don’t like zoos, you probably won’t like this wildlife sanctuary because many of the areas do have protetive wires and cages around the animals, but remember that these animals have been rescued from traffickers and poachers and need a home where they can be cared for and protected. Many of them are receiving medical care and are being observed for health and psychological issues. They are very well taken care of! Visitors that come here will be doing their own small bit to help in the protection and survival of Cambodia’s varied and wonderful wildlife.
You will get to feed some of them, pet some of them, and the elephants, especially, love company! See my other travelblog on the Elephants of Phnom Tamao. They have a young elephant there whose front left foot was caught in a trap and had to be amputated :(. But he is so sweet and has healed so well. He plays around and swims in a big pod. The other, bigger
elephants take care of him :)
Also, Free the Bears (017 794291; www.freethebears.org.au; 16A St 310) has just launched a ‘bear keeper for the day’ initiative to allow visitors a better understanding of the Asian black bear and Malayan sun bear. The full day visit includes the chance to feed and wash the young bears in their care.
Also, it is so helpful to go with a tour guide! Betelnut Jeep Tours (012 619924; www.betelnuttours.com; per person US$30), based at the Lazy Gecko Café, offers day trips here from Tuesday to Saturday, including entry, a guided tour and a chance to meet some of the residents. Betelnut has a special relationship with those who run Tamao, so they have lots of insider information about the animals, what they were rescued from, and the care they are receiving. Definitely support them! And don't buy any "exotic" animal parts for sale in the markets when you are traveling!!
There are more photos below