Bear Rescue

Cambodia

The Bear Rescue team in Cambodia help to care for over 150 rescued Sun Bears and Moon bears that have experienced mistreatment.

You will work with the local keepers at the wildlife centre to help with the day-to-day running of the centre. Volunteers provide an extra pair of hands with daily duties such as feeding the bears, providing enrichments, and maintaining the enclosures. The work of volunteers helps the local team to create a comfortable life for the bears, as close as possible to the wild. As many of the bears have long-term health problems, re-release can be difficult. The Bear Rescue project works with the local community to promote the importance of conserving and raising awareness of the threats facing the species.

Explore the nearby bustling city of Phnom Penh that has beautiful temples and palaces and is steeped in history.

Support the team’s efforts to provide a safe haven for the bears.

Apply

Key Info

key info
  • Location: 1 hour south of Phnom Penh
  • Start dates: Every Sunday
  • Duration: 1 - 8 weeks
  • Age requirement: 21+
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £695 / €815 / $890 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The project aims to provide the rescued Sun Bears and Moon Bears at the centre a comfortable life. Many of the bears unfortunately suffer from long term health problems, or are unable to be re-released due to mass deforestation in Cambodia. The enclosures are large with vegetation, climbing frames and pools.

Volunteers are supervised by the experienced animal keepers at the centre, working together to care for almost 200 bears currently at the rescue centre.

Each day will differ and volunteer tasks include:

  • Preparing food and assisting the keepers to feed the bears
  • Repairing and maintaining the enclosures
  • Working with the keepers to clean the enclosures
  • Making enrichment items and activities for the bears. An enrichment activity is anything that makes the bears lives more interesting such as filling up hollow bamboo with honey or other treats, making frozen fruit ice lollies, rebuilding climbing frames, putting out dead trees etc.

Other tasks do not directly involve the bears but benefit them greatly, such as constructing new play areas or weaving hammocks – bears love to climb!

Direct physical contact with the bears is not possible as these are large and wild animals, which are potentially dangerous. There is a strict hands off policy at the project; this is for the safety of both yourself and the bears. The less contact they have with humans the more likely they will be able to express normal behaviour.

Working days and hours

Volunteers help at the centre Monday to Friday, from approximately 8am to 4pm, with an hour lunch break from 12 to 1pm. During the weekends, you can spend your free time relaxing or exploring Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia has to offer.

Other volunteers

There are usually 1-4 volunteers with a maximum of 6 volunteers, who work alongside a larger team of staff.

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Volunteer Reviews

Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our Cambodia Bear Rescue reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

The sanctuary employs full time Khmer staff to support the bears, however many of the roles are labour intensive and there is always more to be done; whether it is fixing or expanding an enclosure, creating a new enrichment idea or simply helping with the daily duties.

International volunteers also help the sanctuary get their message out to other tourists and travellers in Cambodia and increase the knowledge of the threats facing these species.

Closure dates

Closed to volunteers between the following dates: 17 - 23 Sep and 29 Sep - 4 Nov.

Why are volunteers needed?

The santuary employs full time Khmer staff to support the bears however many of the roles are labour intensive and there is always more to be done; whether it is fixing or expanding an enclosure, creating a new enrichment idea or simply helping with the daily duties.

By having support from international volunteers the santuary are able to get their message out to other tourists and travellers in Cambodia and increase the knowledge in the wider world on this little known species and the threats they are facing.

How is the Bear Rescue project making a difference?

Despite the fact that poaching and owning a bear as a pet are both illegal in Cambodia, bears are still targeting by pet traders, traditional medicine traders (bear bile being a highly priced commodity) and are often kept within the tourist industry.

The centre is home to around 130 bears in total, both Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Moon Bears (Ursus thibetanus). Many have been confiscated from homes following years of mistreatment as pets, seized from the black market trades or freed from snare traps.

Due to mass deforestation in Cambodia, re-release is difficult and many bears have long term health problems. The santuary aims to give them a comfortable life at the centre; enclosures are large with lush local vegetation, climbing frames and pools and volunteers and staff work hard to provide a variety of enrichments on a daily basis.

The Bear Rescue project also works with the local community to educate on bears, teaching children from local schools about the importance of conservation and preservation of the species.

Location, free time and accommodation

Cambodia

Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations, bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north and Thailand to the west. Whilst Cambodia is most famous for its ancient temple of Angkor Wat, its unique culture and heritage makes it a great place for volunteers to explore.

Popular activities in Cambodia:

  • Visiting the sites of Phnom Penh such as the Royal Palace and National Museum
  • Exploring Cambodia’s turbulent history at the S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields
  • Relaxing on one of Cambodia’s beautiful islands

To find out more, see the Lonely Planet Cambodia

Local area and free time

Volunteers spend their evenings relaxing at the volunteer house, in a beautiful location surrounded by paddy fields and close to a temple. There is a comfortable lounge area, balcony, and an outdoor pool available to use. The house is also equipped with games and a pool table. The evenings are quiet, volunteers generally either relax together or spend time reading.

Weekends are free for you to relax at the volunteer house or to explore Cambodia. Phnom Penh, is about an hour away and a great place to visit at weekends with its beautiful temples and palaces and bustling night markets. In addition to sightseeing, you can also enjoy some of the many bars and restaurants, or even relax and treat yourself in one of the nicer hotels. A tuk tuk can be arranged by the volunteer coordinator (approximately $10) to Phnom Penh on a Friday afternoon.

Accommodation

You will live together with staff and other volunteers in a house around 30 minutes’ drive from the centre in a beautiful rural area surrounded by paddy fields and opposite a temple.

The volunteer house is in the typical Cambodian style house with open-air ground floor and bedrooms upstairs. Bedrooms are shared 1-4 volunteers per room. Bathrooms are shared between volunteers, there are western-style toilets and cold water showers. The house has a communal kitchen and living area and an outdoor pool for volunteers to use. There is no internet connection on site but volunteers can occasionally get phone signal.

Whilst it is possible to stay at the house at the weekend, most volunteers choose to go back to Phnom Penh on Friday night and use the weekend for sightseeing and exploring the city.

What's included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team
  • Single point of contact - Lucy is your dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • In-depth volunteering and planning your trip guides
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Animal care volunteering placement
  • Pick up from a meeting point in Phnom Penh and transfer
  • Accommodation - a basic shared room
  • Food - breakfast and dinner
  • Daily transport to the project site
  • Induction and training
  • Support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), food (lunch), weekend accommodation (optional). Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
1 week £695 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £350 GB Pounds
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Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

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bears rescued by the team

"Pod is a no nonsense volunteer organisation looking to change lives"Cian

Lucy

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Lucy soon!

We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

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VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - Fiona

    “The whole experience was rewarding! However hard we had to work, however much we sweated, those bears are worth it! Seeing them playing around and enjoying their enrichment was just so worthwhile.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - I-Ching

    "I love that the keepers know each bear distinctly, working tirelessly to care for them. It gave me a unique experience, one which I can share with others, and hopefully create greater awareness of the plight of bears."

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - Mark

    “If you want to work hard, make a valuable difference and learn about the story of each bear then just go for it. The reward is totally worth the efforts you put in. The team that looks after the bears are just amazing!”

    Read more volunteer reviews

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AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal