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Zoo swap opponent meets with first lady

Asian elephant Seila walks around her enclosure at Kampot’s Teuk Chhou Zoo earlier this year.
Asian elephant Seila walks around her enclosure at Kampot’s Teuk Chhou Zoo earlier this year. Vireak Mai

Zoo swap opponent meets with first lady

The donor who funded the enclosure at Kampot’s Teuk Chhou Zoo for Kiri and Seila, two elephants slated to be sent to Japan in a controversial animal swap, reportedly met with first lady Bun Rany and the prime minister’s secretary last weekend to request the swap be halted.

After learning of the planned trade for two white tigers and two zebras, zoo donor Fiona Hardie met the premier’s wife and then visited the elephants last weekend, according to an email from Louise Rogerson, founder of the elephant conservation group EARS, which was barred from the Teuk Chhou Zoo in late September over its opposition to the swap.

“The meeting was very positive and they are keen to assist with our concerns for these two famous Cambodian elephants to remain in Cambodia,” she wrote.

Rogerson said that after visiting the zoo, Hardie was concerned for all the animals over the lack of clean water, shelter and shade in 35-degree heat.

Nhim Vanda, Teuk Chhou Zoo’s owner, said he was unaware of the meeting or Hardie’s visit to his zoo, and said that the swap with Japan’s Hirakawa zoo is scheduled for early next year.

“[The Japanese zoo envoys] are inspecting those animals . . . They are thinking about how to take the elephants there and how to feed them and how to take care of the white tiger,” Vanda said, adding that conditions are improving despite an admitted lack of clean water.

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