Free The Bears Wildlife Center in Phnom Tmao, Cambodia - travel journal

Responsible Travel has partnered with Friends International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to support a trip to the Wildlife Rescue Center, Free the Bears Sanctuary. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds don’t usually have the opportunity to visit wildlife centres, so this trip gave young people a chance to learn about their country’s wildlife and understand their habitat.

Free the Bears is a non-profit rescue centre that focuses on the protection and rehabilitation of Moon bears (Ursus thibetanus), Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) across Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. To protect the species the centre employs a wide range of strategies that include improving environmental education, providing sustainable livelihoods, helping to increase law enforcement and researching the protection of wild bear populations.

Date: Friday, 25th August 2017: Mith Samlanh organised a trip for a group of 20 (3 female) children and youth, accompanied by two staff, to the Wildlife Center Free the Bears educational program. The group was composed mainly of teenagers (aged 15-18) who are studying cooking vocational training. The majority of young people is extremely marginalized because they lack access to education and skills training, and many times are exposed to abuse, exploitation, sex work, trafficking and drug use, not to mention barring them from any hope from receiving an education and finding stable employment.


8am - Breakfast at Mith Samlanh: Before heading to the Wildlife Center all the youth and children had breakfast at Mith Samlanh. At 8:30am the children and youth were picked up at Mith Samlanh to the Wildlife Center.

10:15am - 10:25pm: The group was welcomed by the Free the Bears staff and given a presentation about the history of the bears and their habitat.

10:25am - 12am: They received a guided tour around the Wildlife Center to see different species of bears (Sun Bears and Moon Bears), as well as other rescued animals, such as monkeys, crocodiles, heron, marabou, large deer, metallic-green pigeon, elephant, lions, tigers, wild buffalo, wolf, turtle, follow deer, etc.

12:00pm - 1:10pm: lunch together.

1:10pm- 3pm: The Free the Bear staff continued the visit focusing on some other animals and birds who were rescued such as eagle, ninth, ox, pythons and others.

3:15pm: After spending more than an hour exploring and listening about wildlife conservation, the children got back on the bus and returned to MS.

Looking into an enclosure
Impact: The youth were very happy to go to the center, they mentioned the fact that they now understand how important is to save the wildlife and raise awareness among other people. They were very surprised about the intelligence of the animals and were very interested in learning more about what they eat and their habitat. The social workers were also very impressed with the center. They’ve never been there before and were surprised by the amount of bears living there. They were happy to get away from the city and experience some fresh nature and clean air.

About our partner organisation: Friends International is an award-winning social enterprise founded in 1994 that saves lives and builds futures of the most marginalized children, youth, families and communities in Southeast Asia and around the world. It works to create a future where all children are safe from all forms of abuse, and become functional, productive citizens who contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world. Friends works in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand, and with 45 partners around the world, to provide comprehensive services to marginalized urban children, youth and their families. Since its inception, Friends has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable reintegration of more than 300,000 vulnerable children, youth and their families.

Mith Samlanh was established in 1994 as Friends first program based in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Since its inception, the program has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable social reintegration of more than 200,000 marginalised children, youth, and their caregivers. It does this through a holistic range of inclusive programming that impacts about 15,000 beneficiaries each year.

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