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

  • Hun Sen asks Cambodians to believe in government

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked citizens and investors to trust that the government will overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19 and the loss of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Speaking to reporters at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh,

  • Westerdam passenger ‘never had’ Covid-19

    The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the US citizen that allegedly tested positive in Malaysia after travelling on the Westerdam was never infected with Covid-19 in the first place. In an article published in the newspaper USA Today on Friday, CDC

  • ‘Ghost staff’ found, $1.7M returned to state coffers

    The Ministry of Civil Service said more than seven billion riel ($1.7 million) in salaries for civil servants was returned to the state last year after it discovered that the books had been cooked to pay ‘ghost officials’. This is despite claims by the Ministry of

  • Tragedy as four lions devour teenager in Pakistan safari park

    In a horrifying incident at an animal park in the Pakistani city of Lahore, four lions killed a 17-year-old grass reaper. However, how Muhammad Bilal Hussain managed to get near the lions was yet to be ascertained. Safari officials said Hussain climbed a 3.7m high

  • Woman wanted for killing own son

    Police in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district are on the lookout for a woman who allegedly hacked her son to death on Sunday in Stung Meanchey III commune. District police chief Meng Vimeandara identified the son as Chan Sokhom, 32. “The offender can’t escape forever.

  • H5N1 also poses deadly threat, ministry warns

    The Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control (CDC) department has called on citizens to excise caution over H5N1 or bird flu that is spreading in the southern province of Vietnam. In a Facebook post, the department announced that it has made a series