Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Zoo Watch’ seeks local zoos’ closure

‘Zoo Watch’ seeks local zoos’ closure

A lion takes shelter from the heat in an enclosure at Kampot’s Teuk Chhou Zoo last year.
A lion takes shelter from the heat in an enclosure at Kampot’s Teuk Chhou Zoo last year. Vireak Mai

‘Zoo Watch’ seeks local zoos’ closure

A wildlife NGO is launching a publicity campaign to get Prime Minister Hun Sen to shut down two zoos in Cambodia accused of keeping their animals in atrocious conditions.

The Hong Kong-based elephant conservation group EARS Asia launched “Zoo Watch” on Thursday in a bid to bring to light the suffering of animals in neglectful Southeast Asian zoos, starting off with the Teuk Chhou zoo in Kampot province and the Prey Veng zoo, both owned by senior ruling party official Nhim Vanda.

Zoo Watch’s website, updated by tourists and visitors to the zoos, features a bevy of photos of malnourished and sick animals living in cramped, squalid accommodations.

“A lot of people have reached out to EARS – sent comments, photos, complaints – about conditions at the zoos,” said Fiona Hardie, a donor to EARS and its welfare director.

“Ultimately, we want the Prime Minister of Cambodia, given that these zoos are owned by a high-level government official, to stage an intervention and stop this.”

EARS Asia managed the upkeep of elephants Kiri and Seila from 2012 to 2015 in the Teuk Chhou zoo, but it was banned last September amid concerns it raised about an animal swap with the Hirakawa Zoo in Japan exchanging the elephants for other animals, possibly including white tigers.

“With EARS’ eviction from the zoo, we felt that there needs to be a highlight of all the other animals and what goes on there,” Hardie said.

One photo on Zoo Watch shows an ostrich that has plucked half of its feathers off at the Teuk Chhou zoo, while another depicts a malnourished porcupine at the Prey Veng zoo resting next to a plastic bottle and a beer can.

A Post visit to Teuk Chhou in August found similar conditions, with no caged animals being provided drinking water and many appearing underweight.

However, the zoos’ owner, Nhim Vanda, denied the animals were being mistreated and said conditions had improved since the photos were taken.

“Now we take good care of those animals,” he said yesterday. “Sometimes many visitors come to visit the zoo, so it has some garbage, so we urge them to clean the garbage at my zoo.”

Vanda said he had “fired” EARS Asia but replaced them with an unspecified “American guy” who ensured that “[we] don’t have the problems Zoo Watch said”.

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Court orders Sokha to stand trial on January 15 for treason

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set January 15 as the trial date for Kem Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who is under court-supervised bail on a treason charge. In a press release issued on Monday, the municipal