This month’s keeper question and answer is with our tiger keeper at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, Kory Rong. We hope you enjoy, let us know if there are any other questions that you’d like to ask him!
How did you start working at Phnom Tamao?
I started working at Phnom Tamao in 2003 after starting as a gardener with my Dad. I then started to take care of the banteng, monkeys, birds and civets. After that I moved here permanently to look after the tigers that were rescued from Phnom Penh. This was a bit scary for me at first!
(Back in 2001 Wildlife Alliance rescued 7 tigers from traffickers who were keeping them in a house in Phnom Penh and were growing them for selling into the traditional medicine trade. They were all between 1 and 2 years old and were taken to live at Phnom Tamao.)
What is your job now?
I currently care for the tigers and clouded leopards.
(The tigers currently at Phnom Tamao were donated to the Forestry Administration from a zoo in Phnom Penh. They would have previously been performing in tiger shows and been kept in small concrete enclosures when not performing.)
What does your job entail?
My work day starts at 7am. Firstly I go and check all the enclosures and den areas; have a morning greeting (tigers make a ‘chuffing’ sound with each other and familiar humans as a greeting), give them strokes (Rong is able to stroke the tigers through the enclosure fence, this interaction enforces the bond he has with the tigers and allows for a stress-free basic health check), and check their appearances and health. After that, I let them into the outside enclosures, so I can clean the den areas of any uneaten food, poo and clean and refill the water at the same time. This takes me about half an hour to wash the whole den area while they are outside. I walk around to remove any rubbish or plastic from the enclosures or inside the safety barriers (unfortunately plastic is a problem in the park, especially with free-roaming monkeys raiding the bins!).
Two or three times a week, I’m able to do some enrichment for them like banana trees, barrels with some meat hidden inside, floating trays with meat on top, cardboard boxes sprayed with perfume, branches hanging, elephant dung and grasses…
I normally feed them once a day at 4 o’clock and lock them in at night in the den areas. Once a week I will empty, clean and refill all of the 3 pools, the tigers love the water especially when it is clean!
What are some problems that you have to be aware of?
Problems I need to beware of are mainly only if and when any of them are sick. However, the tigers here, year on year, are doing well (Thanks to Rong being a great keeper!). Every day I will visually check their condition and their poo and notice any changes or abnormalities. Occasionally they may also fight each other and cause small scratches or wounds, most of the time I can treat them with iodine myself.
Do the tigers need any regular vet treatment?
Once a year they are sedated to have a claw trim, general blood tests and vaccinations.
What is your favourite part of the day?
I normally wash them by giving them water spray from the outside, it is fun as they enjoy playing in it, I like to see that they’re happy.
What is your favourite animal?
I like cat species, especially tigers because I have spent a lot of time with them. I have had more chances to be with them, and know them very well.
What do you wish for the tigers?
I wish we would have some more wood for them to climb through, sacks, different perfume, hard plastic balls, things to play with. Enrichment is very important and I like to give variety.
What message do you have for the world?
‘Hello, I would like to ask people around the world to please keep our environment clean. Secondly please do not destroy the forests, if they are destroyed there will be no more wildlife.’