Friday, May 6, 2016

The time we met Lucky and Chhouk

When we were planning our trip back in London, we planned things so that we had an extra day for unexpected events or if we wanted to fit in something else that we'd heard about during our first days. In Battambang we knew, after saving one day in the border between Thailand and Cambodia (see "What now?" post), that we would have a day to spare so we discussed how we could use it. A few ideas came up, but the one that stuck was about the possibility of visiting an elephant centre. Searching on the guide and online we both read about a rescue and shelter centre near Phnom Penh ran by Wildlife Alliance - Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. They had a tour where we would be able to actually feed and meet different animals, including some baby animals that had been rescued. It was a bit expensive, but this became the perfect gift for ALF's 30th birthday that would happen in a few days.

Arriving at Phnom Penh I confess that my mind was mostly set on that experience. I was trying not to create very high expectations (always the first step to delusions) and finally, one morning, we wake up bright and early before 7am to meet our ride in the rendezvous point.

The staff, an Australian and two Cambodians were very nice and it was great talking to them the whole day, not only about the centre and the animals, but also about Cambodia in general.

And then we arrived to the centre and the first stop was for us to meet Lucky, a 17-years old female elephant that was rescued when she was still a baby. She was found wandering alone (probably forcibly separated from her mum and the rest of the herd) and brought back to the centre where she found a new mum. She was adopted (or maybe it was the other way around) by the first keeper that fed her and that stayed with her 24/7 (including sleep) for 2 years! Lucky went through a lot since, as she got sick a few years ago and is only now recovering from it. We met her as she was around in her morning wandering around. I fell in love immediately! I don't know if it was because she was the first one we met, or because I felt a special connection with her, but meeting her, feeding her and saying hello, was my favourite moment of the day. And the day was full of great moments, from more elephants to lazy tigers and leopards, to crazy otters, to tiny bears, to strange birds and big and baby gibbons! Another great moment was when we met another elephant, Chhouk, who lost his foot in an animal trap when he was very little and now uses a prosthetic one! An amazing story of survival!

This was a great day and we both agree that it was the best experience of the whole trip. And because of that, I am going to break my own rule and upload more than one photo, because the animals and the great work being done at this centre are worth it.
ALF and Lucky (you can see here the damage on her ears that she suffered after being sick)
Feeding Lucky :)
Because she can't cool herself (due to the damage on her ears) she needs these baths when it is really hot
This is the best photo of Chhouk's prosthetic leg
This was another female elephant that we were able to feed! She was really sweet as well
They are such beautiful and intelligent animals!
The centre also has some old tigers. It was so hot all they could do as lay down (just like cats)
The bears :)
The otter after he catch his fish
Don't try this as home!
This female gibbon was raised by humans so she doesn't even recognise other gibbons as her own; she is more comfortable with humans!
And she loves to be petted
She kept asking for more
This is a baby bird, a huge and strange baby bird
He was sleeping while standing. So cute!
ALF surrounded my baby gibbons that we fed 
Baby gibbons - part 2
Eating the greens!
They are actually really picky, they were putting aside most of the leafs

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