If you plan to take a vacation in Phnom Penh, then be sure to take a tour to Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) – the country’s largest zoo and wildlife sanctuary that is located about a 45-minute drive outside town. Opened in 2000, Phnom Tamao Zoo is more a wildlife rescue centre than a zoo, serving as a safe refuge to rare and endangered animals rescued from the clutches of poachers, traffickers and illegal wildlife traders.
Its residents now include more than 1,000 animals plus hundreds of exotic birds and reptiles. Managed by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Department with support from WildAid and Free the Bears Fund, the zoo occupies about 1,200 hectares land out of a 2,500-hectar forest protected area of Phnom Tamao that enjoys picturesque surroundings comprising mountains and ancient temples such as Phnom Tamao Temple and Thmor Dos Temple.
Phnom Tamao Zoo
As you step into the zoo, you’ll be welcomed by a small pool festooned with pelicans and storks. Adjacent to the pond are two small enclosures featuring crocodiles. The walk-through enclosures make for closer interaction with inhabitants such as boisterous gibbons and monkeys, freely wandering deer, hairy-nosed otters, peacocks and iguanas, among many others.
One of the most attractive sections of the zoo is the sun bear enclosure that is run by the Free the Bears – an Australian organization whose key objective is to conserve, protect and improve the lives of bears. With a huge enclosure consisting of swimming pools, toys and hammocks, it is the largest sun bear sanctuary in the world, including Asiatic black bears as well as Malaysian sun bears that have been saved from the black market, hotels and restaurants.
Good to Know about Phnom Tamao Zoo
Phnom Tamao Zoo is situated in Tro Pang Sap village, about 35km southeast of Phnom Penh. It is easily accessible from National Road No 2, and a five-kilometre trail off the main road leads to the zoo.
In addition to buses, motorized rickshaws are available from the capital to reach here. To get better idea about the residents of the zoo, you can hire the services of English-speaking guides.
Equally interesting are enclosures that house scary pythons and chirping, colourful birds and parrots. Perhaps the key highlight of the zoo is its elephants that amuse visitors with playful activities such as dancing and painting.
Unlike most typical Asian zoos, PTWRC’s eco-friendly enclosures are extremely spacious and most take after the animals’ natural habitat. For instance, the tiger enclosure is set in an extensive, densely forested area with a rock hill. The zoo also offers the opportunity for visitors to feed animals and birds, with a number of vendors selling sugar cane, coconuts and bananas.