Peter is an independent International Zoo Consultant working in zoos for over fifty years.
Koh Kong Safari World is in Cambodia but located very close to the border with Thailand. It is part of a complex which includes a casino. Gambling is illegal in Thailand but Thais love to gamble and so most border crossing points between the two countries have a casino. It would seem then that the Koh Kong Safari World is really there to offer casino visitors and their families something extra to do during their visit.
COLLECTION NOW MOVED TO Phnom Penh Safari zoo
The Koh Kong Safari World is open every day of the year from nine in the morning to five in the evening. The site covers just over 60 acres (though seems smaller) and is said to house some 800 specimens representing nearly 100 species.
There is a two price entrance fee. Adult Cambodians can get in for $8.00 whereas for foreigners it is $12.00.
There are shows both in the morning and the afternoon. These include shows of Orangutans, Dolphins, Birds, Sealions and Crocodiles.
Koh Kong Safari World Entrance
The following report is taken in part from The Itinerant ZooKeeper and edited for this article. It is from a visit I made in April 2006.
Koh Kong Safari World was a bit of a surprise. Someone told me that this was the largest collection in Asia. Incorrect, as I have seen several bigger already. It has two or three imposing gateways before you meet the entrance proper. Here the entrance fee for foreigners was a pricey $12. The grounds are smart, well planted, laid out and watered. The staff are helpful, neatly dressed and polite. The show areas are immaculately clean and well designed and maintained. The sealion show was clever, impressive and very entertaining. That's what zoos are about, entertainment, fun for the family, having a good day out. If it lacks these then its not going to get enough visitors to survive. But it should not be allowed to survive if it doesn't fulfil the other major requirements of the modern zoo i.e. Conservation, Education, Research and allowing your stock access to the Five Freedoms.
Now I could be completely wrong here. Perhaps the sealion show had a strong and important conservation message from start to finish but I don't understand the language and strongly doubt it. The crocodile show certainly didn't. This was two guys acting complete pratts teasing animals. The message was all wrong. The public loved it though. I was the only Westerner there incidentally.
So what about the Orangutan boxing? It was on but I didn't go and see it. I sort of regret it now. I had argued with myself that I didn't want to support such rubbish... but then I already had by purchasing my ticket to the zoo in the first place. I didn't watch the bird or dolphin shows either because I reckoned they would be on a par with the previous shows I had seen. The last crocodilian show I saw was at 'Seminole Indian village and zoo' in Fort Lauderdale (anyone been there?) back in the 70's. Things have come no further since then.
Orangutan Boxing in Koh Kong
A Note About Orangutan Boxing
If you have just watched the video above of the Orangutan Boxing you may well have laughed, even enjoyed it. They certainly don't appear to be hurting each other. They aren't! It is all an act, and a very clever one at that.
The real point here is that these animals are being exploited and humiliated. These are wild animals which have been illegally imported into Cambodia. Their mothers have been cruelly killed to obtain them. They should not be trained up for the amusement of zoo visitors. If the zoo is going to keep Orangutans then they should be living in enriched suitable accommodation and not dressed up for people to laugh at. There is no education or conservation message here.
As to how the animals have been trained before they ever made an appearance in the ring. Who knows? Can this be done through positive re-inforcement?
I digress. Back to Koh Kong Safari World. The boxing Orang-utans are the central prominent feature of the colourful entrance ticket. You cannot see them elsewhere in the park. The name would suggest that it is a safari park in the usual meaning of the world ie Drive thru. It isn't, it is just a zoo ie walk thru. Not counting the long entrance and car parks there is probably not much more than 15-20 acres open to the public. As I said the grounds are beautiful. The parrot like and primate cages are a load of crap. Too small, dark, dingy, raised bottom, freestanding over concrete. No barriers and public access right the way round. But beautifully situated.
The deer, ostrich and guinea fowl enclosures were overcrowded. The ostriches have a problem. Either they have lice, feather drop or a rogue bird but all of about twenty birds apart from an aggressive male were missing all the tail and back feathers. I didn't see any lying about. Perhaps uncharitably I wondered if there was a lucrative market for these in Cambodia.
The main crocodile pools were nice. The bear and tiger enclosures too, though they had gone over the top a bit with their electric fences. There really was not much more to it than that. This place is shows. That is what is geared up to and around. It is out to get your money and no more. I don't believe that it has any higher aspirations than the dollar. That said the stock all looked reasonably healthy.
I set to thinking that agreeing to abide by the spirit of the 'World Zoo Conservation Strategy' should/must include zoo architects/planners/trainers etc. In fact anyone in the zoo peripheral. We really need to do something. Zoos need to do something.
There are strong similarities between Koh Kong Safari World and Safari World in Bangkok. The 'sameness' is so strong that anyone who has visited both collections would be inclined to say that they are run and managed by the same people. This has been denied but I don't believe it. Like Safari World in Bangkok the Koh Kong Safari World has been involved in the smuggling of Orangutans. The animals they did bring in from from Thailand (which are not endemic) were said to number between 22 and 36 animals are believed to have come from Safari World.
Though completely illegal the laws have either been ignored or circumvented. In 2007 Koh Kong Safari World had 34 Orangutans. Importations have all been illegal.
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on August 09, 2011:
@Amy Ka - It is an attractive place which most people will enjoy....but it is commercially exploitative and cares nothing for conservation or animal welfare.
Amy Ka from Phnom Penh on August 09, 2011:
I haven't been to this place yet. I plan to go there sometime at the end of this year with my family.