Opened in 1995, the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center is the largest zoo in the country. Covering 10 sq miles (26 sq km) of protected forest, of which only a small part is in use, the zoo serves as a rehabilitation center for animals, many of them endangered, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. A haven for wildlife enthusiasts, the center cares for and protects several rare birds and animals that usually inhabit inhospitable parts of the country and are therefore almost impossible to observe in the wild.
These well-nurtured animals are kept in a variety of enclosures, the largest of which houses a group of Malayan sun bears who willingly accept fresh coconuts from visitors. Other exotic species found here include the world’s greatest collection of pileated gibbons and the Siamese crocodile. The center also has several elephants that have been taught to paint, and many fully grown Asiatic tigers. These are best viewed in the afternoon, when they usually come out.