Earlier this year, our Care for Rescued Wildlife Program (CRW) began offering exclusive behind the scene tours at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), with proceeds benefitting the rescue and care of animals at the Center. This unique experience offers visitors an opportunity to interact with some of the charismatic animals at PTWRC, as well as meet the remarkable people that care for them. These tours began in April, and have since become wildly popular!
Starting up a new tourist activity in the low season can be very difficult. However, with the help of the internet and some planning by tour manager Victoria Evans, the word began to spread. After reaching out to many hotels and local journalists, two writers finally responded and one subsequently featured the tour on the cover of The Advisor, a local magazine. The first guest to sign up was an American primatologist visiting Phnom Penh who happened to pick up the magazine in a coffee shop. For the next 7 days, there were 6 tours, and since then 3-4 tours every week.
Each tour accommodates only 2-7 guests, creating a very personalized experience. The Wildlife Tours allow guests to not only meet the animals at PTWRC, but also learn about their incredible stories. Often, the highlight of the tour is interacting with the elephants. Visitors get a chance to meet Chhouk, our elephant with a prosthetic front leg, to demonstrate our positive-reinforcement elephant training. Guests also really enjoy meeting one of our friendly female gibbons, who was likely a pet before she was rescued. She makes a soft hooting noise and slowly slides her leg toward us for grooming. When she's had enough of that, she turns around to get her back scratched. Intimate experiences like this are what make the Wildlife Tours so special.
The Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center is now listed on TripAdvisor.com as one of the top things to do in Phnom Penh. The response to the Wildlife Tours has been overwhelmingly positive. Colleen and Freddie, a lovely couple visiting for their honeymoon wrote, “In our 6 weeks traveling around Southeast Asia, we did many things, but this experience is at the top of our list! Seeing how much love and care is given to all of the rescued animals as well as the desire to educate is something that will stay with us. My favorite part of the day was taking a walk with Lucky the elephant and watching her take a bath. It's obvious that she is happy, healthy and well cared for.”
Many wild animals are orphaned as a result of wildlife trafficking; infants are torn away from their parents who are usually brutally killed for their meat or other parts. The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) rescues these baby animals that are now entangled in the trade and often sold as pets. These little ones come to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) weak and helpless, and require special care and attention. PTWRC was in need of a nursery specifically designed to care for these young animals.
Thanks to support from the team at the Landry’s Foundation and the Landry’s Downtown Aquariums in Houston and Denver and various other funders, this goal has been realized and a new baby animal nursery was completed. The funds from the Landry’s team also made it possible for two staff members to stay at the nursery full time, and provide the infants with the specialized care and attention they need.
An example of a young animal that has benefited from the nursery is a recently rescued baby douc langur. This vibrant and striking species is native to Southeast Asia and is on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. The baby langur is hand-fed every 2 hours, but unfortunately is still half the weight he should be. Veterinarians at the Center have made various attempts to improve his digestion, but he is still not gaining weight. The langur who is otherwise healthy, continues to be monitored and is receiving full time care. The new nursery at PTWRC gives vulnerable animals like this a chance at survival, and with your support we can continue to provide him with the round-the-clock care he needs.
Last August, we reported on Sakor, the bull elephant that had been causing problems along roads and villages in Koh Kong. As a result of the hard work of our rescue team, Sakor was safely removed from the area and brought to the Phnom Tamao Wildilfe Rescue Center (PTWRC). For a while, Sakor was living in Chhouk’s enclosure, with Chhouk relegated to his night stall.
We are excited to report that Sakor’s new permanent enclosure was finished two weeks ago! Both elephants now have plenty of space to reside in, and Sakor is thriving in his new home. Sakor also continues to get along famously with Lucky, one of our female elephants. It is hoped that when ready, Sakor can be the founding father for a breeding program of Asian elephants at PTWRC. With Asian elephant populations rapidly declining, this program could be an exciting step forward for elephant conservation in South East Asia.
But the process does not end here. Food, medicine, and care for an elephant are not insubstantial expenses and we are still in need of funds to ensure we can meet our high standard of animal care for Sakor for the long term. To help Wildlife Alliance care for Sakor, make a donation today. Donate on Wednesday, March 13th through GlobalGiving.org and your gift will be matched up to 30%!
This month we welcomed a new baby Pileated gibbon to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC). He joins several other babies born as part of the gibbon rehabilitation program, which works to rebuild the gibbon population in the wild. Known for the impressive tree swinging and complex vocalizations, gibbons are spectacular primates to observe in the wild. However, due to extensive hunting and habitat loss these magnificent creatures have been listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
Owing to their high demand in the wildlife trade, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) often rescues gibbons from wildlife poachers that sell them as pets or tourist attractions in bars and hotels. We also receive many donations of gibbons that have been torn away from their mothers as infants and are kept as pets until owners realize they cannot control these wild animals. In attempts to change the animal’s natural behavior, these gibbons are often mistreated and confined to small areas. Caretakers at the PTWRC work hard to rehabilitate the animals, and house them in spacious enclosures to facilitate natural behavior. These large, natural enclosures enable the process of de-humanization in order to make them suitable for reintroduction into the wild. This program has been largely successful in rehabilitating the gibbons, unfortunately finding suitable habitats for their release has proved to be more challenging. Gibbons by nature are highly territorial, with a home range of about 75 acres. They mate for life and live in small families composed of only the mated pair and a few of their offspring. Due to the widespread habitat destruction and competing gibbon families in available protected land, finding suitable release location has been difficult.
Through outreach and education Wildlife Alliance is working to raise awareness about the dangers of keeping primates as pets and continued habitat destruction. Help us continue to rescue and care for these graceful primates, as well as provide them with the adequate space and rehabilitation they require.
On the evening of September 22nd, Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) received information that a young gaur had been snared in the forest near the small village of Ro Leark in the Chloung District in Kratie province, located northeast of Phnom Penh. The animal’s mother was hovering close by, protecting her child, but making rescue dangerous and difficult. Gaurs are the largest species of wild cattle, incredibly strong with large horns on their head, and have been known to be quite bold. However, with few options of how to handle the situation, two members of the WRRT – along with Wildlife Alliance Wildlife Programs Director Nick Marx – headed off towards Kratie first thing the next morning.
Driving fast, the three reached Kratie in less than four hours – a seemingly impossible task. They then traveled through miles of plantations and cleared forest until they arrived in Ro Leark. From there they continued by ox cart for 45 minutes until reaching the location of the young, snared gaur. Forestry Administration rangers had slept nearby the night before to protect the gaur, a 4 or 5 year old female. By that point, the mother had abandoned her. The gaur was exhausted but lucky, as the snare had not tightened completely around her leg. She was lying down, with a few small injuries caused by her struggle to escape, but the snared limbed was uninjured and she needed little medical care. After removing the snare from her leg and helping her to sit up, Nick offered her water and she drank, slowly regaining her strength. Over the course of several hours, Nick continued to provide water, grass and cassava leaves. She ate very little, but began to forage on the forest leaves around her. She began to be troubled by the prolonged human presence and seeing as she had regained her strength and mobility, the team felt comfortable leaving her there and returned the village.
Upon return to Ro Leark, guards were found who were willing to monitor the gaur in the forest overnight and Forestry Administration officials in the village also agreed to ensure the animal’s continued safety. The team from Wildlife Alliance stayed in the village overnight in case there were any further issues. By the next morning, the team received information that the gaur had disappeared into the forest and so with a successful rescue completed, the team returned to Phnom Penh.
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison