If you really want to help the animals, you may wish to send a donation directly to Free the Bears.org, Wildlife Alliance or other NGO instead. The bears are well-cared for and the related educational programming is well developed. It's good to know that there are people trying to end the horrible practices that are torturing and killing bears for vanity and superstition's sake. The Free the Bears group seems to be trying very hard (under difficult circumstances) to make a difference in a humane, compassionate manner.
That being said, you should know that the rest of the Centre is NOT necessarily run according to best practices in wildlife support and rehabilitation. It is truly heartbreaking to see most of the animals (especially the birds) in tiny enclosures with few regulations protecting them from overfeeding, teasing, and inappropriate behaviour by tourists. It appeared that there was little rehabilitation actually going on. The elephants are made to perform daily... something that goes completely against the principles of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. With the exception of the bear program, there is very little "educating" - signage is minimal and there seems to be no effort to connect the sustainability of species to habitat protection and the prevention of wildlife trafficking. I don't support the concept of "zoos" but recognize that properly done, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centres can play a role in educating people so that they appreciate and want to protect their wildlife.
Overall, the visit made me dreadfully sad, but I will be sending donations directly to Free the Bears to support their good work behind the scenes.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
June 25, 2013
Thank you for your in-depth review of the Wildlife Rescue Centre. You have definitely nailed the limitations and obstacles of wildlife rescue work in Cambodia!
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Free the Bears does have a strong program to care for the bears and educate people. Wildlife Alliance is also working on developing signage and education with our limited funds, on top of supporting the Cambodian Forestry Administration in the rescue, care and release of wildlife around the country. No animal in need is ever turned away from us and we are currently caring for approximately 1200 animals. I would be happy to send you our 2013 Wish List so that you can see what initiatives we are trying to accomplish this year with donors' support.
The new behind-the-scenes tour with Wildlife Alliance shows how we care for and rehabilitate the animals, and how we train our elephants. Lucky for example was gently trained to bathe, paint and dance through positive reinforcement, meaning she receives a treat (fruit or turnips) when she follows an instruction, and absolutely no abuse whatsoever when she does not. Her mahout, also the Center's head keeper, has raised her since she came to us as a 6-month-old orphan, providing constant care, comfort and reassurance to renew her trust in humans. They have had a loving relationship ever since and are quite inseparable!
The elephants, tigers and other animals have enrichment in the mornings when they are most active, which is often before visitors arrive at the center. Much of the rehabilitation work is done behind the scenes, where our tour guests are able to learn about sensitive animals that are isolated in the private rehabilitation area. We also operate a release station (releasing bears, binturongs, civets and many others) in a remote jungle in Koh Kong Province, and Wildlife Alliance has an educational unit that travels to schools around Cambodia to educate Cambodian people about wildlife. The majority of our staff are Cambodian and all work hard to try to change the mentality toward wild animals.
The Wildlife Rescue Centre does not have the frills of a Western zoo but it is a safe haven for animals that would otherwise be dead, and has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1995 when the government did not have the support of Free the Bears, Wildlife Alliance and other organisations. We have many plans and more work to do as we round on our second decade of involvement at the centre and we hope that you will keep in touch to see it take place!
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.