This wonderful wildlife sanctuary for rescued animals is home to gibbons, sun bears, elephants, tigers, lions, deer, ginormous pythons and a massive bird enclosure. They were all taken from poachers or abusive owners and receive care and shelter here as part of a sustainable breeding program. Wherever possible animals are released back into the wild once they have recovered.
The sanctuary occupies a vast site south of the capital and its animals are kept in excellent conditions by Southeast Asian standards, with plenty of room to roam in enclosures that have been improved and expanded over the years with help from Wildlife Alliance (www.wildlifealliance.org), Free the Bears (www.freethebeers.org) and other international wildlife NGOs. Spread out as it is, it feels like a zoo crossed with a safari park.
The centre operates breeding programs for a number of globally threatened species and is home to the world’s largest captive collections of pileated gibbons and Malayan sun bears, as well as other rarities such as Siamese crocodiles and greater adjutant storks. Other popular enclosures include huge areas for the large tiger population, and there are elephants that sometimes take part in activities, such as painting. You’ll also find a walk-through area with macaques and deer, and a huge aviary.
Cambodia’s wildlife is usually very difficult to spot, as larger mammals inhabit remote areas of the country, so Phnom Tamao is the perfect place to discover more about the incredible variety of animals in Cambodia. If you don’t like zoos, you might not like this wildlife sanctuary, but remember that these animals have been rescued from traffickers and poachers and need a home. Visitors who come here will be doing their own small bit to help in the protection and survival of Cambodia’s varied wildlife.
Both Wildlife Alliance and Free the Bears offer more exclusive experiences at Phnom Tamao for fixed donations. Wildlife Alliance offers a behind-the-scenes tour, which includes access to feeding areas and the nursery area. Free the Bear has a 'Bear Care Tour', which allows guests to help out the on-site team for the day. These tours include transport from Phnom Penh. Otherwise, the easiest option is a rental motorbike or car from Phnom Penh in combination with Tonlé Bati or Phnom Chisor.