Credits: Phnom Tamap Wildlife rescue
Award winner 2012
Location: Cambodia

Vuthy Chuon

Vuthy Chuon works to protect the endangered bears of Cambodia. Sun bears and Asian black bears are illegally hunted for their body parts, and their cubs end up sold as pets. For Vuthy, this is unthinkable. He left high school to work in bear rehabilitation and now runs a sanctuary for rescued bears in Cambodia. His presence in the area generates local support for wild bears, a decisive factor to prevent the establishment of bear farming in his country. He has secured one of the best records of bear rescue on a budget in the region, creating a model that is being emulated by others.


Vuthy Chuon first came in contact with Free the Bears in 1996, when he dropped out of high school to work in their brand new Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre so he could support his family. He praised himself lucky with the opportunity to work for an international NGO. And during this time, he learned and practiced his English with international volunteers. In 2009, Vuthy made the decision to study veterinary medicine part-time, when a sun bear cub died in his arms due to a bite of an adult bear.  After the incident, he wanted to be able to provide emergency veterinary care to the animals he is responsible for.

Vision and Approach

The story of Vuthy is truly inspiring, proving that love and dedication to a cause go a long way. He focuses his efforts in rescuing bears from the hardships of illegal wildlife trade. In Cambodia and several other parts of Asia, Sun bears and Asian black bears are illegally hunted and farmed for their body parts, which are used as traditional medicines. Some of these bears leave behind cubs, which are then sold into the pet trade. By running the bear sanctuary inexpensively and effectively, he is showing Cambodians that saving bears is achievable. Besides, his investments in the education of younger generations help ensure the future of nature protection in Cambodia. As a result of Vuthy’s presence, bear farming has never been allowed to gain a foothold in the region.

“Since I won the Future For Nature Award, things have been moving incredibly fast. Early 2016, we already had 123 bears at our sanctuary. Part of the prize money has been used to develop new education facilities at the sanctuary so we can help Cambodian people to understand why we have to protect these bears and to make sure they never support the illegal wildlife trade.”
Vuthy Chuon

 Impact of the Future For Nature Award

  • The financial support of the Future For Nature Award helped Vuthy set up a group of community based rangers to protect natural areas.
  • Vuthy used the Award funds to create a mobile education bus to tour around the country and show how communities can protect nature and wildlife themselves.
  • Vuthy completed “The Bear Discovery Trail” in his sanctuary, which educates visitors on how to protect wildlife and look after animals in captivity.
"Vuthy Chuon is clearly an exceptionally motivated individual who genuinely cares for animals, both their welfare and wellbeing, as well as the survival of the species. It goes far beyond being an intelligent and effective conservationist on a good career path. It is about inspiration."
Ms. Annette Lanjouw, International Selection Committee