Teuk Chhou

Teuk Chhou Zoo Revisited

I recently revisited the privately owned Teuk Chhou Zoo in Kampot for the first time in about a year and a half. To my dismay I found many of the animals I had photographed in 2013 missing with empty enclosures. Namely the female leopard, two Bengal tigers, two Asian golden cats and a female gibbon and her infant, leaving her male mate alone where once together they lived a seemingly happy existence. The male gibbon still enjoys his head being massaged through the fence.

Other remaining animals looked unhealthy. Large birds of prey still in cages way too small for them with no shade from the baking heat, some with what looked like broken wings. I also noticed three new sun bears in the old orang-utan cage. A black bear in the tiger's enclosure and what looked like a different wild boar than the previous one I had photographed who foamed at the mouth.

Some people when asked informed me that the missing animals were moved to Prey Veng zoo, also owned by Nihm Vanda. I haven't been to Prey Veng zoo, but in a Google search the first results are "Zoo of Death" with petitions to "Close down Prey Veng Zoo"

Since the breakup between the zoo owner His Excellency Senator Nihm Vanda and NGO Footprints in 2013, the animals were in need of help yet again. Visible substantial improvements could be seen during Footprints short time at Teuk Chhou and positive stories were published in national newspapers and magazines such as the Phnom Penh Post and Asia Life. With titles in the realms of "Zoo on the rise" "Zoo back on track" Apart from the initial breakup these stories haven't been followed up since.

Are these animals dead? Have they been trafficked? Or have they been eaten, as the owner once stated if he couldn't get money. Or are the two zoo's being refurbished/cleaned/rearranged? If the animals are dying why introduce new animals? What is going on? It seems both zoos should be closed down.


Kampot Zoo

Eight kilometres from the Cambodian coastal town of Kampot, the surreal and tranquil Teuk Chhou Zoo sits in a idyllic valley at the fringe of Bokor National Park, where the Elephant mountains meet the plains of the Kampot River. The private zoo was realised in 1999 by His Excellency Senator Nhim Vanda, still the owner today. Over the years lack of finance and public interest rendered the zoo dilapidated, animal enclosures deteriorated and became unliveable, the animals were underfed and seriously neglected. Consequently many were malnourished and emaciated, culminating in sickness, depression and death.

After visiting the zoo in 2011 Rory and Melita Hunter, an Australian couple living in Cambodia pledged to do what they could to save the zoo's dying residents. Collaborating with Nhim Vanda and utilising the animal care skills of Nick Marx of the Wildlife Alliance, the situation was temporarily reversed and many of the animals were saved.

From this came Footprints, an NGO dedicating itself to the management and transformation of the zoo. A lease was signed with Nhim Vanda and plans for the future were slowly moving toward a "Teuk Chhou Wildlife & Educational Park".

In early 2013 the deal between Nhim Vanda and Footprints was abruptly broken over an unknown dispute and the future of the animals is uncertain once again.