Volunteer to care for rescued bears at the Cambodia Bear Sanctuary
This project needs volunteers to help care for and rehabilitate over 100 bears that have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, from bear bile farms and from lives as domestic pets.
“It's a great experience and you will feel so accomplished after doing it.”
Carmel, Transport Manager, Ireland
The Project: The sanctuary is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of bears poached for bear bile farms, traditional medicines, exploited as pets, used for profit within the tourist industry or rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.
Project Location: The Cambodia Bear sanctuary is located one hour south of Cambodia's thriving capital, Phnom Penh.
Main Volunteer Activities: Volunteers work with alongside local Khmer staff, feeding the bears, devising and making toys and enrichments (food games), and maintaining the bear enclosures.
Hours: Volunteers work from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday with a break for lunch.
Duration: Volunteer placements are year-round and for 1 to 12 weeks.
Accommodation: Volunteers live in a comfortable traditional style shared house with lush gardens and a lovely outdoor pool.
Volunteer Requirements: Volunteers at this project must be aged 18+ and have a passion for animal welfare.
Volunteer Placement Fee: From UK£700 / US$835
√ Free airport pick up from Pnom Penh international airport.
√ Accommodation at a comfortable volunteer house with a pool.
√ Cambodia orientation guide and induction on arrival.
√ Free daily transportation to and from your project.
√ In-country support from local staff and volunteer co-ordinator.
√ All necessary project equipment and materials.
√ All necessary project training by experienced staff.
√ Breakfast and Evening meal from Sunday to Friday.
√ Project donation.
What’s not included
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Medical and travel insurance
- Vaccinations and inoculations
- Meals, drinks and gratuities
- Extra local excursions
- Onward transport at the end of your placement
- Personal kit
- Visa costs
What do everyday items cost?
The official currency of Cambodia is the Riel, however, all shops and market stalls accept US$ and you may be given small change in local currency ($1 = 4000 Riels). Be aware that dollar bills with any tears or markings are generally not accepted. ATMs dispanes cash in US$. The cost of living in Cambodia is very low compared to most countries in the developed world. The costs of some typical items are:
- Short journey by tuk-tuk - $1 to $2
- Meal in a market - $1
- Bottle of soft drink - $0.50 to $1
- Draft beer - $0.50 to $2
- Meal in a restaurant - $4 to $25
The project was set up to rescue bears held in captivity and rehabilitate them as far as is feasible, in the hope that they can be reintroduced to the wild. For bears that are not fit to return to the wild through injury or over-domestication, the project provides them a safe environment in which to spend the rest of their lives which is as close to their natural habitat as possible, and in which they can receive the best possible care.
How the project is helping
The Project works with the Cambodian authorities, supporting their rescue programmes. The Sanctuary provides a home for bears that have been rescued from circuses, bile farms, the meat trade, traps and even from people who have bought them as cubs to keep as pets.
Twenty one forested enclosures have been built over seven hectares to house a mixture of Sun bears and Asiatic black bears of different ages and personalities.
All of the enclosures are extensively furnished with pools, rocks, hammocks, climbing frames, lush native vegetation and a variety of enrichment toys to ensure that the bears are kept happy and healthy at all times.
Many of the bears cannot be reintroduced to the wild as they have suffered serious physical abuse or have been raised as pets. The rescue project aims to give these bears the best possible quality of life in captivity by providing large areas that match the environment in which they would live in the wild.
The project also works hard to spread awareness of animal welfare issues and the importance of the protection of their natural habitat.
Why the project need volunteers
Like all of our projects, the Cambodia Bear Sanctuary receives no state funding, but through volunteer support, private donations and grants the project is able to provide an essential lifeline to the bears of Cambodia.
All the bears at the centre have been rescued from unnatural and often life-threatening situations. Volunteers work alongside project staff to ensure the lives of the bears are interesting, challenging and as close to 'normal' as possible. The more volunteers the project has the better the lives of the bears!
Typical Volunteer Duties
Volunteers work Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm at the sanctuary with weekends free to explore the local area. Phnom Penh, Cambodia's fascinating capital city is within easy reach, as are the Cambodian coast and islands. You will work closely with local staff assisting with a variety of tasks, all of which enhance the lives of the bears.
The first day will consist of an induction covering the background of the bear rescue project, the rules for volunteers, how the sanctuary is run, information on the different types of bears and a full tour of the site.
Volunteer Daily Activities
You will be trained and supervised by experienced keepers at the centre. After this you will work alongside fully trained local staff and the volunteer coordinator on daily activities which will include:
- Preparing food for the bears, moving them inside and then scattering and hiding the food in their enclosure to provide an environment that is as close to their natural habitat as possible where they would need to forage for their food.
- Enrichment programs, which include improvements to the existing enclosures to keep the bears challenged and entertained, creating small puzzles and challenges for the bears to complete to obtain treats.
- Assisting the keepers in their daily tasks.
- Cleaning the enclosures.
- Repair and maintenance of the enclosures and indoor holding pens.
- Maintenance of the centre and surrounding area.
You will be advised in your induction as to the specific rules regarding health and safety not only to protect yourself but also the welfare of the bears. The work can be tough and dirty especially in a tropical climate, but you have a unique experience to be part of a young but rapidly expanding project that is crucially important in preserving Cambodian wildlife and educating future generations on the importance of conservation.
Volunteers live on the outskirts of a rural Cambodian village, roughly 40 minutes away from the sanctuary. The volunteer house has twin bedrooms so volunteers may be sharing a room with another volunteer of the same gender.
Transport by car to and from the centre is provided on working days.
A cleaner, cook and security guard look after the house and prepare dinner but volunteers should be prepared to help with domestic duties. Laundry services are available at the volunteer house. Internet is available at the volunteer house although it is not always reliable, internet is widely available in the capital city and volunteers can buy SIM cards if internet is essential to them.
Free Time in Cambodia
Our team in Cambodia are all very well travelled throughout the country and further afield in Southeast Asia and can offer plenty of travel tips. There are lots of options for weekends as well as for travel before or after your placement. Here are just a few of Cambodia’s treasures to whet your appetite.
For a small country Cambodia has a lot to offer those who have time to travel further afield.
Phonm Penh is about an hours form the project and is home to many popular attractions. The magnificent Royal Palace and the restaurants and bars along Sisowath Quay are on every vistor's list along with the more sombre sites of S-21 prison and the Killing fields - reminders of Cambodia's tragic past and the genocide under the Khmer Rouge Regime.
In the south of the country you will find the laid back coastal towns of Kampot and Kep as well as the lively beach resort of Sihanoukville. There are some lovely unspolit islands where you can kick back and recharge your batteries as well as jungles, forests and the wildlife havens of The Cardamom Mountains. Buses and internal flights from Phnom Penh airport make getting around easy and relatively cheap.
For those who have time there are also regular direct flights from Phnom Penh to other must-see Southeast Asian destinations such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore as well as long distance buses.
Angkor Wat and the temple complexes
Visitors come to Siem Reap to visit the temples of Angkor. There are over 100 temples scattered in the area in various states of decay, some in overgrown jungle, some on lakes. Rest assured everyone leaves with their own personal favourite temple!
Some people visit for one day to see the main attractions but we would recommend 3 days exploring the temples to get a much better overview of this incredible period in Cambodian history. On arrival in Siem Reap our friendly staff can advise the best ways and times to visit the temples.
Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and an attraction in its own right. About 10km form Siem Reap, the lake stretches almost as far as the country's capital Phnom Penh. Its size varies enormously between the wet and dry seasons and half the year the waters flow into the lake from the river Mekong and for the rest of the year the waters flow in the other direction, giving the lake a unique ecosystem.
Boat trips on the lake are very popular and you can visit lake the famous floating villages and stilt villages, orginally home to refugees which have grown into entire communities with schools, shops and houses sitting directly on or over the water. Also venture further to see the wildlife sanctuary which is home to several species of endangered birds and take a kayak through the famous sunken forests.