Monday, November 15, 2010

Sambo the elephant may be evicted from her Wat Phnom home

Very sad news. My friend Mariam Arthur has been working hard to find Sambo the elephant (the only one in Phnom Penh) a permanent home. The 50 year old elephant survived the war, Khmer Rouge, only to face yet another challenge. There does not seem to be a place for him in the modern city that is Phnom Penh. Elephants live till a hundred so Sambo will need a place to stay for the next 50 years.

Sambo's owner Sinsorn was told on the 11 November that Sambo must leave Wat Phnom and never return because people complain Sambo disrupts traffic.

Mariam feels the best place for Sambo is the Royal Palace. Sambo needs a safe place to sleep at night. I was horrified to read this from Mariam: "Not only is this instability bad for her health, she is susceptible to nighttime raids by men trying to cut pieces of her for their magic power."

Mariam has written to various Cambodian authorities. On Nov 12, she received a rejection letter from the Royal Palace. (To see all correspondence, please visit this facebook page.)

The most urgent thing now is food for Sambo. "Sambo's only source of income for food was by giving rides at Wat Phnom. Therefore, after she finishes today's food supply, she will no longer have any food," Mariam writes.

If you have been touched by Sambo in some way, as I have (I attended her 50th birthday party and was moved to tears by the gentle animal), please consider giving Sambo money for food until she and her owner/caretaker Sinsorn is able to find a way to earn money for food. You can contact Mariam at

If you doubt Sinsorn's love for Sambo, please read this touching story of how Sinsorn met Sambo as a child and man and elephant were reunited after the war. There seems to be genuine affection between the two. You can read it here at (I have just been informed by the editor of Southeast Asia Globe that the blogger i originally credited had plagiarised Grzegorz Ostrega's original story for the Globe. Shame on you somanorodom. You give all bloggers a bad name and shame on me for assuming you are a blogger like me, writing things from your heart.)

If you have any good ideas on how to help Sambo, please do let me know.


Natacha said...


I know Sambo for passing by her along the Sisowath Quay and at Wat Phnom. She was great for tourism as an iconic resident of Wat Phnom and everybody met her at least once!
How sad she's expelled... And in my view, she's not disturbing traffic, as much as the tuk-tuk or big SUVs... (And I know, i'm driving that area!)

But since it's decided already... what if she's sent to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Center? It's the first place that come to my mind where she'd be taken care of.

Unknown said...

strange that this should happen to sambo given that he's a local celebrity In a way...
where does he sleep now? can the owner take him back to his village? As far as I know he had many elephants before the war. There are few elephant reserves here, near PP and in africa, why not host him there for the time being? Could be better for him to be with other elephants, no?
Good luck. I'd like to be posted about this, I live here in PP. . Yulia

Unknown said...

this is terrible news! I meet Sambo all the time, we often share the same commute times in the mornings and evenings. I LOVE to bump into him and feel he is a beloved part of this city. I hope something can be done to ensure he continues to be able to earn a living.

concerned Phnom Penher

Charlie said...

In your blog on Sambo the elephant, you say: "If you doubt Sinsorn's love for Sambo, please read this touching story of how Sinsorn met Sambo as a child and man and elephant were reunited after the war" and then you reference In fact the author of this blog has lifted her entire piece from an article that was written in Southeast Asia Globe magazine in January. To respect the intellectual property rights of author Grzegorz Ostrega, who researched and wrote the original, and now plagiarised, story, perhaps you can link to: Thank you. Best regards, Charlie Lancaster, managing editor, Southeast Asia Globe

Unknown said...

Wnat about the phnom takao wildlife sanctuary? I know the owner and I will speak to her soon.

Diana Saw said...

Hey all, thanks for your concern! I'm so glad to know people care about Sambo. I have pledged $50. Some people tell me I should spend the money on a Khmer, but Sambo *is* a Khmer! Please do contact Mariam if you are able to help at all.

Mariam is negotiating with the authorities on keeping Sambo at Wat Phnom. I think the Wildlife Centre sounds good but I think the plan is not to separate Sambo and Sinsorn. I'll keep everyone updated. The Cambodia Daily has contacted me and they are doing a story so hopefully the publicity will help.

PS: Charlie - have made the changes on my post. Sorry about that. I was referred to the blog on the Save Sambo facebook page. Did not know about the Globe article till just now. Great article and my congrats for publishing an important piece.


Diana Saw said...

Hi all, asked Mariam what she thought of placing Sambo in the Wildlife centre. Here is her answer: "I think she has been domesticated all her life. I can see the love she has with Sinsorn. He pays attention closely to her health and on some days, if she is tired, he will walk her home early, or not even take her to Wat Phnom for a day or two.

"I think Sambo enjoys the exercise and food that she gets. It's all conditioning. This is her routine, and it is very easy for an elephant.

"The weight of one or two people on her back for 15 minutes is less than us carrying a child around an amusement park when they are tired. In the 60's, elephants were still used as trucks carrying/pushing/pulling tons.

"I think Phnom Tamao is great for wild elephants who have been trafficked."

Unknown said...

Im doing weekly feeding with sambo I dont missed a week if Im here in Phnom Penh sometimes if I have many guest from I go 3x a week.
Sambo is part of my weekly routine its really very upsetting that she will be evicted in Watphnom.
I never understand how people think that this poor animal who has been through with many things in her life specially during the Khmer rouge time will again to have this challenge.
She is not hampering the traffic at all , Sambo as well is actually one of the reason why many tourist go to Watphnom to see her to feed her and just to have look at her even short time.
Elephant has been part of the Cambodian or Buddist culture its time that they protect the interest and the welfare of Sambo.
Putting her in Tamao wildlife would not be very good idea she is used being around with care of her owner it would be difficult for her to be in the enclosure area.

JB said...

Sambo has been offered a home in a sanctuary where she will have true elephant friends and relative freedom. Full medical care has also been offerred. People wanting to keep Sambo in captivity in Phnom Penh are not acting with the elephant's best interests at heart. She needs to have rest and medical care immediately!!!! All other outcomes are motivated by selfish human emotions...this is not love for the animal.

JB said...

Sambo has been offered a home in a sanctuary, where she would be free to live out her life with other elephant friends. Full medical care has been offered as well. VET report insists that Sambo needs to stop walking on the road and be rested and treated immediately. She is lame and in excrutiating pain. The people preventing her from receiving this are not acting in the elephant's best interests. Recent video shows her now walking on her toes to try to avoid the pain in her foot. Please people...stop being selfish wanting her to remain in the city. Let her be free and well - before she falls down and injures herself beyond hope. You could still see pictures of her in a happy place with a herd of other elephants.


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