Before we left we used to watch Sue Perkins’ Mekong river program each Sunday with wine and try to remember all the interesting places that she visited. The wine clearly hampered our memory of the program and we arrived at the Mekong delta without a clue what to do. So we downloaded the programs again and were reminded of the wildlife sanctuary that Sue (on first name terms now) visited when she was in Cambodia. We were spending a week in Phnom Penh due to me needing my second but last rabies vaccine. We love the city but the most popular ‘attractions’ of the Killing Fields and S21 Genocide museum were not for the light hearted (people really are screwed up) and we needed a fun day to see a happier side to Cambodia.
Free the Bears based at Phnom Tamao wildlife reserve was the answer. The charity homes Moon and Sun bears saved from the restaurant and bear bile market . They provide the bears with food and a safe space where they won’t be hunted and their paws turned into soup.
For the whole day we got to play at being bear keepers. Our guide Pesei was the lady featured in Sue’s documentary and she was awesome, telling us all about the bears and the park. We took part in bear enrichment activities, where we stuffed plastic balls the size of bowling balls with treats, fruits and vegetables. Then we got to throw the balls over the fence and watch the moon bears have snack time.
Snacks we prepared:
Moon bear snack time:
It never occurred to me to use my feet to balance my food so I can use both hands to eat even quicker. I think Pinion is worried I might try this new technique when we are out next. Next up we visited some of the smaller animals that the wildlife has rescued, including some tiny baby monkeys and a super cute gibon.
Super cute guy
(they are in small cages cause they’ve just recently arrived, they’ll move to bigger enclosures/ be released soon):
Leopard having a nap:
Our last bear experience was hiding food in their enclosures (whilst they’re in a different area) and then getting to watch them try and find it when they’re let back out. The monkeys were quick to work out where everything was hidden but the bears got to eat a fair few bits of fruit. It was one of the best days of our trip so far, you can volunteer long term there or even just for a week if that’s your thing. If not then the day visit gives a great introduction to the conservation work that is slowly being introduced in Cambodia.
Sun bears finding their snacks:
Website: Free the Bears