Englishman Ian Butcher, of FTB, meets Tong-Tong.
Tong-Tong the city-raised sun bear has found a new home at the Phnom Tamao Zoological
Gardens and Wildlife Rescue Center, 45 kilometers outside Phnom Penh.
The zoo, run by the Wildlife Protection Office (WPO), has three bear enclosures covering
1.6 hectares built by Free The Bears Fund (FTB), an Australian charity. The addition
of Tong-Tong brings the number of bears to 16. Twelve are sun bears.
Michael Tan, who helped raise the bear and had it donated to the zoo, said: "Some
guys offered us $1,000 for the bear, but we said no."
He said that as he had looked after the bear since it was only two months old, he
did not want to see it killed or milked for bile.
"You feed her for so many years, like a daughter, so how can you kill her?"
FTB, which also maintains the zoo's bear enclosures and pays the salaries of the
three bear keepers, said that all the bears in their charge were either donated,
like Tong-Tong, or confiscated by the WPO.
Ian Butcher, who works as a volunteer for FTB, said that the philosophy behind the
charity's involvement in Cambodia was to achieve long-term sustainability for the
"Conservation starts with the people," said Butcher. "You have to
respect local people, learn their language and understand why they kill and eat bears.
The usual answer is poverty.
"When I leave, I would like to see Cambodians running the enclosures themselves,
knowing they would have back-up in the form of volunteers."
Tong-Tong is in quarantine but should be integrated with the other bears in about