Locations: Cambodia

Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center

The Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) is located 40 kilometres south of the city of Phnom Penh on National Road 2.  The center sits on 2,500 hectares of protected forest, which is a rarity in Cambodia.  Nevertheless this forest provides a perfect natural refuge for rescued Cambodian wildlife.  The PTWRC is run by the Forestry Administration (FA) of the Cambodian Government but receives great assistance from non-profit groups of animal conservationist organizations in order to provide care and rehabilitation for victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

Animal Husbandry Specialists, Nick Marx, working for the NGO Wildlife Alliance, and Nev Broadis, working for Free the Bears Fund, help to run the Center.  We met Nick when we last visited in 2003 to teach the always lovely and energetic Lucky how to paint.  An amazing individual and dedicated conservationalist, Nick has been at the Center since January 2002.  Nev started work at the Center in 2004 and along with Senior Vet, Nhim Thy, and Field Logistics Coordinator, Vann Mao, the team has been working day and night to care for the rescued animals at the Center.  For more information about the PTWRC, please visit www.wildlifealliance.org/page/view/81/wildlife/care-for-rescued-wildlife.

There is a lot of illegal trade in wildlife in Southeast Asia and some really atrocious things going on.  The PTWRC is a beacon of hope for many of these animals.  A week prior to my arrival in April 2007, the team rescued a baby elephant from Mondulkiri, Northeastern Cambodia.  He was freed from his restraints and carefully driven in a customized truck to PTWRC – a journey that took 26 hours.  The poor little guy, named Chhouk, had lost his front foot in a trap and was in pretty bad shape.  Fortunately for Chhouk, there are people like Nick, Nev, and their team of elephant keepers providing him with around the clock care and medical attention.


Here Nick keeps an eye on Chhouk as he groggily tried to stand after being sedated while his wounded foot was cleaned and rebandaged.  Once awake, Chhouk initially refused to eat, but after a few hours he gained his appetite back and seemed to perk up a bit. Chhouk regained his strength over time and has since been fitted with a prosthetic foot made by the Cambodia School of Prosthetics and Orthotics.


Our best wishes go out to Chhouk for his speedy recovery.

In addition to Chhouk, there are three other elephants at the Center.  Three of them are the most loving, friendly females elephants that I have ever met (in fact I still have trunk snot in my ears). Lucky, Naram, (links not found) and Jamran were all rescued by Nick and his team and brought to Tamao at different times but in the last few years they have become a fairly inseparable unit.

Of the three female friends, Lucky has excelled most at painting.  This is due in large part to the dedication and perseverence of her mahout, Try Sitheng.  He has been working with Lucky ever since she was found in 2001 wandering alone in the forests of Koh Kong at around 6 months of age. Through gentle positive reinforcement training, Lucky now paints following simple voice commands, and receives a "treat" (her favorite: turnips) every time she correctly follows directions. With the continued support of Try Sitheng, Lucky has developed a very distinctive technique and style of mark making.

Lucky paints with support from Try Sitheng

Funds from the sale of PTWRC elephants, Lucky, Aram, and the late Sima (link not found) most recently helped fund the rescue of Chhouk, who’s rescue involved Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT).  In addition, this year has seen funds go to the building of a new and much needed pool for the elephants.  The elephants used to bathe in a nearby lake but with gradual climate change and increasing human demand, the dry season has gotten longer and the water in the lake has gotten lower and lower.  Once the rainy season hits around May/June, there is not such a problem, but within the last few years, the dry season has been so bad that the PTWRC can no longer depend on the lake as a consistent source of water.

lake at Pnom Penh
Naram and Jamran bathing in the lake.  The tree line marks the high line of the lake.

Constuction at lake

With the cement having just been laid for the new pool, the steepness of the entrance is inspected before the whole thing is filled with water.  Of importance is the gradual slope of the edges so that it is easy for the elephant to get in and out when he/she wants to.

The AEACP, and myself personally, would like to sincerely thank Nick Marx, Nev Broadis and their staff at PTWRC, the elephants’ team of mahouts, and of course the elephants themselves.  Fantastic work is being done here at the Phnom Tamao and we are all very excited about the limitless possibilities of these larger than life animal artists.  To see the new and stunning works being done by Lucky, please check out her page (link changed) from the list on the right at www.elephantart.com.
Lastly, Anderson Cooper from CNN was at PTWRC less than one week after I visited.  The segment features young Chhouk and well as our girl, Aram, getting a little rough with Jeff Corwin.  Wonderful segment.  Check it out here! (link added)

For VISITING Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, email
evansv@online.com.kh  (link changed)
OR EMAIL NICK AT: nickmarx@online.com.kh


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