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Tiger, pythons, turtles and Russians

Tiger, pythons, turtles and Russians

W HILE there's undoubtedly many plans on the drawing boards for how to save Cambodia's

wildlife, one guy is actually already doing something about it right on the outskirts

of Phnom Penh.

With little cash in his pockets, a bundle of camping gear and a fiery determination

in his eyes, Russian man Nicola Doroshenko (pictured right) has set up shop on a

half acre of land just beyond Pochentong where he is collecting an odd assortment

of endangered species - from pythons to rare turtles to a Cambodian tiger - and doing

his best to keep them alive.

The job isn't easy. Doroshenko says that the tiger needs eight kilos of meat a day

just to have a decent feed.

At 3000 riels per kilo the blond, blue-eyed Uzbecki is looking for a few charitable

souls to kick in some bucks to help keep what is undoubtably one of the most magnificant

wild creatures on the planet well-fed.

Beyond a healthy diet, the tiger also needs a bigger pen. Sadly, the rare cat, which

is drawing wide-eyed villagers from near and far, is now confined to a one by two

meter cage.

Doroshenko has plans to build a larger enclosure, and one to develop a pond for his

endangered turtles and monkies, but needs the money - or better still some donated

raw materials - to do the work.

All the efforts of "Cola", as he is known, come under the Society for Ecology

& Wildlife Preservation Cambodia, an organization he set up with some friends.

They treat sick animals, conduct research on snakes, insects and anything else they

can find and seem to be having the time of their lives living in tents like some

long-lost frontiersmen in an uncharted tropical wilderness.

The Russian community in Phnom Penh knows all about Doroshenko's operation. A recent

weekend visit to the rustic camp site involved ample helpings of shiskebabs, some

chilled vodka and an opportunity to pet the three-meter long python - in that order.

One could also scratch a turtle's belly and have a monkey jump on your chest and

pick your pockets. The python had already eaten so we missed seeing Doroshenko feed

it some live mice.

Ever feel bored on Sundays? Want to entertain the kids? Or even better, want to chip

in your two cents worth to save an endangered species? Give Nicola a call at 60051

and make an appointment to visit what he says is definitely "not a zoo!"

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