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Kampot zoo back in trouble

Kampot zoo back in trouble

130212 05
Wayne McCallum, director of the NGO Footprints, pets a tiger at the Teuk Chhou zoo in Kampot province in 2012. Footprints’ management and financial support for the zoo came to an end earlier this month. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The NGO that said it had brought Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou Zoo back from the edge of disaster has ceased its involvement with the zoo due to a disagreement with the owner.

Details from NGO Footprints remained scant as to why its partnership with the zoo, owned by National Committee for Disaster Management vice president Nhim Vanda, had abruptly ended.

“I think the owner had different aspirations for the site,” said Dr Wayne McCallum, director of Footprints, to which Vanda officially had ceded control of the zoo in September, more than a year after the NGO’s major funders Rory and Melita Hunter stepped in to rescue the zoo’s animals from  inhumane conditions.

Since taking over management, Footprints had been wholly financing the zoo’s baseline operating costs of $6,000 to $7,000 per month, in addition to improvement projects such as a renovated elephant enclosure that opened in October.

“If I cannot find a new partner, I will feed the animals myself and do whatever I can,” said Vanda. “But if they still die because of no food, I will eat them. There is no problem for the future.”

Vanda told the Post last March that he had handed over the zoo’s management because he could not support it on his own.

Yesterday, Vanda asserted that about 20 of the zoo’s animals, including rare birds, bears and monkeys, had died since the Hunters became involved.

“On February 8, I went to the zoo to meet with Rory [Hunter] and Wayne [McCallum] to discuss the death of animals and some other problems but they refused to meet me and said to me that I have no right to control the zoo,” Vanda said. “I stopped working with the partners who don’t really love the animals.

“They don’t understand about the habitat of animals in Cambodia. My elephants were sick and I had to buy medicine to inject them.”

Footprints’ financial backer Rory Hunter could not be reached.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected] and Vong Sokheng at [email protected]

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