Wat Phnom Might Be Sambo’s New Home

Phnom Penh City Hall has agreed to allow the city’s iconic pachyderm, Sambo the elephant, to set up permanent residence at Wat Phnom, relieving her of having to make the daily journey along the riverside, city officials and her owner said.

Ly Saveth, director of administration for the municipality, said on Tuesday that the city had agreed to provide space around Wat Phnom for Sambo’s shelter, but is still awaiting design plans for the shelter to be submitted by Sin Sorn, Sambo’s owner.

“We had already agreed on this proposal from Sambo’s owner to provide the space to build shelter,” Mr Saveth said. “We are waiting to receive the design style proposal from the owner.”

Mr Sorn said that he was aware the municipality was awaiting plans for Sambo’s shelter, but he did not know that the municipality had agreed to provide a space for his elephant to live.

A permanent home for Sambo has been a longstanding worry for Mr Sorn, said Mariam Arthur, a family friend who has been aiding them with the proposal.

Sambo has been relocated about five times in four years and Mr Sorn is worried that Phnom Penh’s constant development would make it difficult to find a space for her to live, said Ms Arthur.

A permanent shelter at Wat Phnom would also mean that Sambo, who currently stays in a grassy area behind the Australian Embassy, would not need to travel the busy streets to get to work at Wat Phnom, where she give rides to tourists.

Ms Arthur said that Mr Sorn will send a proposal to City Hall about Sambo’s new home. Ms Arthur described the plan as having a gazebo-like shelter where Sambo could sleep under, as well as a fenced enclosure with room for her to walk around. The proposal also includes a request for Wat Phnom to have a packed earth path around it so that the ground would be soft for Sambo to walk on.

A wildlife rescue group, Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival Foundation, has called for Sambo to be retired because a recent examination revealed that she needed dire medical treatment for her injured feet. The group had also called on the government to ban all elephants from working in the city.


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