Global Programs Blog

International Field Placement:
Marializa Kelly (JD '15), Vishnu Law Group, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Wildlife Rescue Center

I have a soft spot in my heart for animals and when I heard there was a wildlife rescue center here, I had to go and see it. I went to a wildlife rescue center in Costa Rica a few years ago as part of a pro bono program with the Law School. It was a very eye-opening experience to see the harm that comes to these wild animals when they are used as pets. The rescue center in Costa Rica was very similar to the center here in Cambodia. Same problem, slightly different animals.

Seeing the animals in enclosures, even though they are large ones, was depressing but most of the animals there were taken as babies or lived as pets and would not survive in the wild. If they were able to survive, it is likely they would be poached.

Gibbon in Cambodian wildlife rescue centerThe one that broke my heart was a nine-year-old gibbon. He went blind very young and his owners got rid of him. He had a “girl friend” when he was brought to the rescue, but she died a couple years ago. I was told that gibbons are monogamous and will not accept another partner. This gibbon cannot see, but he senses when people are coming close and likes to hold visitors' hands.

Unfortunately, wildlife trafficking in a big problem, and there is a black market for animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, crocodiles, pangolins, exotic birds, iguanas, monkeys, turtles and many other species. Some are wanted as pets or as food. Many others are trafficked for their skin, antlers, tusks and scales. Some cultures use the scales of the pangolin and the fur on the antlers of some deer as medicine. There are some very educational albeit depressing articles about poaching and trafficking. Here is a general article about animal trafficking and necessary international cooperation -- this one is more educational and leaves out the sad pictures.

It was a treat to see the animals but this experience will make me think again when I see those exotic birds at the pet store.

Elephant in Cambodian wildlife rescue center

​Her name is Lucky and she was on her daily walk. My colleague, Christian Holden ('09, JD '15), and I were lucky to see her and give her peanuts and bananas.

Deer in Cambodian wildlife rescue center

This is the largest deer species in Cambodia. She is pregnant​ and really likes peanuts.

Monkey in Cambodia wildlife rescue center
Crocodile in Cambodian wildlife rescue center
Monkeys in Cambodian wildlife rescue center

Some of the many animals at the wildlife rescue center. The crocodile was rescued from traffickers.