Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lucky for me

Lucky taking aim with the paintbrush at my t-shirt
The highlight of my day today was getting trunk painted by Lucky, the large female elephant at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Park. You can't say that too often. It was part of my behind-the-scenes visit to Phnom Tamao courtesy of Wildlife Alliance, to give their new tour the once-over as well as enjoying being up close to nature with some of the rescued wildlife that is being so well cared for at the center. We kicked-off with two female elephants, giving them some treats whilst they were on a walk through the grounds, taking a dip and generally exercising, which they do twice a day. Then it was into the elephant enclosure for a close-up with the famous Chouk, a young male that has a prosthetic leg, to watch how his trainers teach him with reward-based lessons. Then came the Lucky t-shirt painting bonanza, aided by Sitheng the head trainer who has been with Lucky for more than fifteen years. The t-shirt art, using Lucky's trunk to hold the paint brushes, will have pride of place on my wall. The seven beautiful tigers were next, as we went inside the cleaning area, normally reserved only for their keepers, and got to within inches of the beasts. We saw a series of other animals, including the excellent viewing platform at the bear sanctuary, where three bears hammed it up for the audience before one of our group took the plunge to have a bath with Lucky. It was Tori, our aide from WA but the offer was open to our small group. Finally we went into the nursery area to come face to face with a gorgeous leopard cat, which everyone fell in love with, and the playful, young macaques, who restored my faith in monkeys. They were adorable. How often can you say that about macaques. We were a bit fortunate that the rain stayed away until we took lunch at one of the locals stalls and then cleared as we finished eating. If you like animals, then you will love this tour and with a few adjustments, I think WA are onto a winner.
Lucky's handiwork displayed, complete with fetching pink raincoat

Chouk's keeper changes and cleans his prosthetic boot

Nick Ray going all cuddly with the adorable Leopard Cat

A lot more difficult to go all cuddly with the beautiful Tigers

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