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Sambopulls a Houdini

The mystery of the whereabouts of Wat Phnom's elephant Sambo has been solved.

Phnom Penhois may have noticed Sambo's absence last week from her usual post circumnavigating

the city's mythical birthplace with customers perched on top.

Rumors abounded about her fate. "The elephant went to Kampong Chhnang,"

one Wat Phnom regular told a family looking for an elephant ride. "She fell

over and hurt herself," said another.

On Wednesday Sambo was back on her beat. "She was having a holiday," said

her trainer Sin Surn. "Well, actually I went to a party in Kampong Speu and

she was resting at Boulding [her home]. Elephants need to rest too."

Born in Kampong Speu, Sambo, 47, has been a Wat Phnom fixture for more than two decades.

A strict fruitarian, she loves sugar cane and bananas. She is also exceptionally

clean as she showers seven times a day with Surn's assistance.

Despite the purity of lifestyle Sambo is not always a model of good behavior. "She's

mean," said 11-year-old Ol Sithart, Surn's nephew who helps look after Sambo.

"When she's mad she whacks me with her trunk and legs." However, Sithart

concedes she only gets grumpy when people abuse her.

Surn denies this allegation: "My elephants are kind, and she's never hurt anyone."

"I'm a good trainer," he said.

Surn, 51, and Sambo grew up together. He said he had other elephants too but the

Khmer Rouge killed and ate them. "They thought elephant meat was really delicious,

but I would never eat an elephant."

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