This is taken from my blog from last year's trip to Asia... On the way to Angkor I got a little sidetracked. Halfway along the road between the checkpoint and Angkor itself I suddenly saw a big sign that somehow I'd completely missed the last two days. The sign said "Angkor Zoo". Well, what was I to do? I cycled down the rutted dirt road, kind of dreading the conditions I might see at the zoo, but it turned out to not be too bad. It certainly isn't a first-class zoo, or even a second-class zoo. Not even a third-class zoo. But the animals are obviously looked after to the best of the keepers' abilities. Its very easy (and necessary) to criticise certain conditions in zoos in the more well-off countries like Singapore or Thailand or, even more so, America or England, and say this cage isn't up to standard and you shouldn't have that animal in there and so on, but in a poor country like Cambodia its a bit harder. A few of the cages here were shockingly awful -- the leopard in what was basically a concrete bunker with a strip of mesh along each side for light, and the macaque cages were just empty concrete-floored squares. But most of the animals weren't too badly off. It was only a little zoo but the reptiles had lots of room in pools or aviary-style cages (the monitors were very fat and presumably didn't mind being where they were!), the water birds like storks and ducks and herons had lots of room in open yards, the flying birds and fruit bats had reasonable aviaries. Apart for some domestic animals like geese, a pig and a guinea pig, all the animals were local species and I got the feeling that they were mostly donated by the local people or had been rescued, or had maybe even been confiscated from people keeping them illegally. One of the three sun bears (in a too small cage) had a missing hind paw from a land mine. Unfortunately the only person who spoke English quite well was a young girl who disappeared after telling me about the bear, so I couldn't find out much. Another little girl showed me round, pointing out the animals in each cage, but she didn't really speak English. Before I left I gave her a dollar for her help. The zoo itself only cost two dollars. The signage was of course restricted to a simple name-plate in Cambodian, sometimes with English underneath as a concession for what are probably very few foreign visitors. Not all of the English names were right, but I guess that was mostly due to animals being moved or replaced. My two favourite signs were the one saying "(Turkey?)" on an aviary for quail, and one saying "strange snake head of boa body of cobra" (there was a python in the cage; I'd love to know what the sign was actually for). There were lots of crocodiles (they must have got a bulk deal!), lots of porcupines, lots of birds, and lots of the horrible red bitey ants, the kind that make their way silently up to the back of your neck before stinging you. I hate those guys! The saddest thing in the zoo was a female pileated gibbon who kept sitting on the ground against the side of her cage and bouncing her back off the wire. She seemed starved for company; when a young wild macaque walked alongside the cage she scrambled over and followed it closely around until it left (I assume she wanted its company and not to eat it!). There was a big cage being erected in the middle of the zoo which I hoped was to be for the leopard. There is lots that could be done to improve the place for the animals but I think they're doing the best they can. Its just a huge shame that some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into Angkor from the tourists' pockets can't be directed here for the animals.