I was so happy when I heard that people want to support my zoo. I would never touch the money – even 100 riel
The owner of Kampot’s Teuk Chhou zoo, Nhim Vanda, said yesterday he is open to support from the NGO community in order to improve conditions at the controversial menagerie.
Last month, The Post gave an in-depth view into the deplorable conditions at the zoo, which is unable, due to an apparent shortage of funding, to provide adequate food and water for the animals.
Offers of help from NGOs, private companies and individuals have since been made.
Nick Marx, wildlife rescue director at the NGO Wildlife Alliance, said yesterday: “I will do whatever I can to ensure the safety of the animals, and to work with Nhim Vanda and any other supporters that want to help financially better the lives of animals at Teuk Chhou zoo.
“Wildlife Alliance has wanted to help for a long time and I’m really happy [to] do whatever is required.”
The zoo has also caught the attention of a member of the Royal Family, Princess Norodom Sita, who was shocked at the treatment of the animals but hopes to raise support for a solution in the near future.
“We want to start ongoing fundraising for the animals ... we want to keep pushing to make sure the animals will be looked after in the future,” she said.
Kingdom Breweries CEO Peter Brongers said yesterday that he would like to use his brewery as means for fundraising for the animals.
“Many people want to help but they want to be sure they are helping in the right way. We at Kingdom Breweries will sponsor animals but we want to be sure that the money will really be beneficial to the animals,” he said.
Jack Highwood, director of the Elephant Valley Project sanctuary in Mondulkiri voiced concerns yesterday of the feasibility of continuing to care for the two elephants at the zoo.
“In order to upgrade their present living environment to an acceptable level, would involve a huge and ongoing monetary infusion,” he said, adding that the EVP was open to dialogue with Nhim Vanda.
“We have the capacity, staff and capability to take care of the elephants indefinitely.”
Nhim Vanda, who is also vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, claimed yesterday he had struggled with a lack of monetary support from the NGO community and the Government but said he looked forward to a new chapter for the zoo.
“I was so happy when I heard that people want to support my zoo and I would never touch any of the [donated] money – even 100 riel of it. They can do what they want to improve the zoo,” he said, adding that NGOs could provide technical support, animal care and further staff, in addition to reconstructing animal enclosures.
“They should set up a foundation package, so they will be clear that the zoo does not have any corruption ... we will also think about changing the name of my zoo, according to what the organisations that support it want,” he said.
Nhim Vanda also said that one of the obstacles in trying to raise funds for animal care at Teuk Chhou zoo in the past stemmed from the fact that his zoo is privately-owned and he said that many NGOs and Government departments have no policy to support that type of enterprise.
He hopes that with the combined support of NGOs, Government departments and private fundraisers the zoo will be restored to the initial prominence it enjoyed upon opening 10 years ago.
“I would like to see the zoo as green as it was before, I really do love these animals,” he said.