Project #4308

Help Care for Rescued Animals in Cambodia

by Wildlife Alliance
Chhouk with Nick Marx
Chhouk with Nick Marx

Our Care for Rescued Wildlife team does an incredible job of caring for the animals Wildlife Alliance rescues from the illegal wildlife trade – the most vulnerable of which are the babies, especially those that have lost their mothers or been separated from their family groups.  So far, our track record in nurturing baby animals is good – but it can be better.  Animals like Chhouk – who was just a baby and missing a leg when we found him in the forest – can survive and even thrive under the expert care of our team.  But the facilities we currently have are sorely lacking when one considers the level of care that is necessary to ensure the survival of these most defenseless victims of wildlife trafficking.  Watch the video below to see what Wildlife Alliance does to help these and all the animals at Phnom Tamao against great odds.


Read the attached annual report to see all the amazing achievements by our animal husbandry specialists and wildlife rescue team this year as they work tirelessly to rescue, protect, and care for Cambodia's vulnerable and endangered wildlife.  2011 saw many successes - a new prosthesis for Chhouk, our male adolescent elephant missing a leg, countless births and updated enclosures, and over 4,500 life animals rescued from the wildlife trade.  We also had some setbacks like the outbreak of avian flu over the summer and the death of Sambo, a rogue bull elephant we had rescued.  We are looking forward, as always, to our new projects for 2012 including building a baby nursery, improving the enclosure for Pursat, the only hairy-nosed otter currently living in captivity, and initiating a conservation breeding program for the endangered Indochinese Tiger.  We are grateful for everyone's support and look forward to hearing from you in this new year!


On November 17, 2011, a baby gibbon was born in the rehabilitation area at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.  The baby was born to a recently introduced pair of gibbons, but the female was very nervous and not expected to breed.  Luckily, a healthy baby was born to her and she and her mate are now proud parents!

One of our main objectives with our Care for Rescued Wildlife program is to eventually reintroduce rescued animals to the wild.  Other than animals that will require lifetime care, any animals that can be successfully weaned from their dependence on and familiarity with humans are intended for release.  We have more than 60 gibbons at PTWRC, most of whom have been rescued, then hand-raised by humans and therefore unsuitable for release.  However, all baby gibbons born at PTWRC are mother-raised.  Other than the newest addition to our gibbon population, there are 3 other baby gibbons, 2 males and 1 female that have been mother-raised and therefore less accepting of humans.  We hope that within a year, a pair of these gibbons would be able to be taken to a release site to start the process of reintroduction.  They are currently wary of humans and kept in a 1 hectare (approx. 2.5 acre), well-treed enclosure where they are becoming more and more remote.  A successful release of a pair of gibbons would help us fulfill our ultimate goal of reintroduction of wildlife.

Ibises lakeside
Ibises lakeside

Avian influenza – “bird flu” – is one of the most terrifying diseases in Asia. Strains of the H5N1 virus have probably existed for thousands of years, but periodic mutations can lead to widespread deaths of not only birds, but people and other animals as well, including cat species.

In 2003-2004, a massive outbreak of bird flu caused the deaths of hundreds of birds at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, and also caused illnesses in the rescued cat species, including tigers, and other large cats – the first time the disease was ever found to affect felines. In 2011, bird flu has return to Cambodia. Eight people have been reported dead across the country in the past several months, and birds at Phnom Tamao have also fallen ill and died. This time, however, our Care for Rescued Wildlife program staff are better prepared, and are responding accordingly.

On July 12, 2011, the first bird deaths attributed to the most recent outbreak of avian influenza were reported - two spotted wood owls. The bodies of the dead birds were sent to the Cambodian government laboratory for testing animal disease, and they came back positive for H5N1. Other birds on Lakeside and in Quarantine died. The outbreak continued for around five days. In total, our staff found 55 birds at Phnom Tamao that died in the five-day span, including storks, greater and lesser adjutants, pelicans, and several owl species. More migratory or semi-resident birds surely died as well, with populations of lesser adjutants, painted storks, and spot-billed pelicans in significant decline.

Although tragic, this outbreak has so far been nowhere near as damaging as the first in 2003-2004. Wildlife Alliance and Forestry Administration officials took immediate action and were able to contain the disease. The section of Phnom Tamao housing the birds was closed down and disinfectant was sprayed in the relevant areas. Tires of vehicles were also disinfected and only essential staff were allowed to enter the infected areas. From a conservation perspective, the saddest loss is the two endangered greater adjutants, but the most threatened animals, like Sarus cranes, were transferred further away to minimize the risk of disease transmission.

The source of the illness is surely in local farms. We had been told that the disease was hitting local poultry farms in Takeo province, which is undoubtedly where the most recent outbreak originated.

While the initial spasm of bird deaths occurred in a very rapid period of a few days, there have been further bird deaths at PTWRC after the main outbreak. On July 20th a black-crowned night heron died in the Waterbird Aviary. On July 22nd a lesser adjutant was found at Lakeside and on July 31st a woolly-necked stork died in the Aviary. We are also closely monitoring the number of the semi-migratory birds which return each year to Phnom Tamao’s lakeside area from their breeding grounds. We see that spot-billed pelicans and painted stork numbers have dropped drastically, demonstrating the widespread severity and ease of transmission of the disease.

To ensure the safety of the people and animals at Phnom Tamao, Wildlife Alliance is working with the Forestry Administration to continue to implement bio-safety protocols throughout the Rescue Center – monitoring incoming animals carefully and isolating them in Quarantine, feeding the large cats only poultry from known reliable sources, and disinfecting vehicles and people who are working with the birds in our Aviary.

Nick Marx, director of the Care for Rescued Wildlife program, feels strongly that the source of the outbreaks is the poor management of domestic poultry. He says, "This terrible disease will continue to ravage both wild and domestic bird populations until we keep our poultry more humanely, dispose of dead bodies more efficiently and behave more responsibly when disease does strike rather than selling hens on before they succumb to the illness. ...and perhaps be prepared to pay a little more for our food." He also notes that, "None of the fowl at Phnom Tamao suffered from this outbreak - peafowl, jungle fowl or pheasants. This indicates that these birds are actually less susceptible than raptors, pelicans, cranes, storks, and hornbills."

Caring for rescued wild animals is not an easy business, and death is an unfortunate part of the job. We are grateful for the many individual and institutional supporters of our Care for Rescued Wildlife program, whose gifts enable us to respond to wildlife emergencies like the bird flu outbreak. To support our Care for Rescued Wildlife program please donate now.

Baby Adjutant
Baby Adjutant
Spot-billed Eagle Owl
Spot-billed Eagle Owl
Sarus Crane
Sarus Crane


Wildlife rescue director Nick Marx has devoted his life to saving endangered animals – from his roots in Great Britain, he has worked in South Africa, India, and Cambodia, running Wildlife Alliance’s Care for Rescued Wildlife program for the past ten years.



In this brand-new video, Nick offers a sense of his personal commitment to endangered wildlife, while showcasing some of the 1000 animals under his care at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. It’s clear that for Nick, caring for wildlife is more than job — it’s a passion that has shaped his life since he was a boy. Each of the rescued animals at Phnom Tamao, from elephants to gibbons, represents a second chance for the wildlife species of Southeast Asia that have been reduced to a tiny fraction of their historic populations. Nick knows that more needs to be done — but inside Cambodia, our work means the difference between life and death for these animals. In many cases, these animals or their offspring will be returned to the wild — replenishing populations driven to the verge of extinction due to poaching and wildlife trafficking. As Nick sees it, “People that know us, and know me, know that we do a good job. They see what can be done — with a little bit of money, and a lot of hard work and passion.”



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Organization Information

Wildlife Alliance

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sheena Thiruselvan
Development Officer
New York, NY United States

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