The popular makeup artist Apple Love is smiling. Cheerfully humming about the plan to create awareness about Cambodia’s endangered animals, the 24-year-old, whose real name is Dou Pothmolita, is sitting at a table with her team at the Kaifun Restaurant on Street 334, finalizing the plan for the “Jungle Party” to happen here on Saturday.
The party is the launch of the Jungle Project, whose mission is to promote awareness of wildlife loss in Cambodia by inspiring young people with body painting, makeup and a fashion show. The project has grown out of a Facebook campaign called the “100 Animal Project”, which featured Dou dressing herself in makeup to look like different animals. She was inspired by the death of Sambo, the Cambodian elephant in Siem Reap that collapsed during one of the hottest days of the year.
Makeup artist Apple Love (Dou Pothmolita), painting a sun bear onto a model’s face. Nimeth Art Creator
“I was never in love with animals until I went to Siem Reap, but the day it really hit me was when I heard the news about the elephant, Sambo, and his death,” Dou says. Dou knew she had to do something to help change the local mindset behind the destruction of wildlife.
Dou says that the initial project was something really basic, featuring posts of her putting makeup on herself to promote the animals with a small description of the species below. Seeing her work, Bo Sakalkitya from the group Plerng Kob, which organizes the annual Our Village Festival to promote traditional activities, approached her to do a project focusing on Cambodian animals abused by trafficking. Dou then contacted the Young Eco Ambassadors, a group working closely to protect wildlife. The Eco Ambassadors picked the 15 animals to be depicted through makeup and will be providing information about the different animals endangered in Cambodia.
“We want to inform the public how many animals are endangered and how many are extinct,” Bo says. “We cannot force people to stop believing [in superstitions and medicinal lore about animals], we just want to inform that these species are almost gone.”
One species of concern is the bison, or “Kouprey”, Bo says. Despite becoming the national animal of Cambodia in the 1960s, the kouprey has not been seen by conservation groups since 1988. “Many people confuse a similar species called the “Tonsorng” with Kouprey,” says Aing. Originally started as a team of 12, the group has recruited more than 40 young people from different universities all over Cambodia. Now separated into eight teams covering different departments, they encourage young people to engage with animals and nature by taking field trips to eco tourism areas or to the zoo. They feel that by increasing public knowledge and understanding, they can help to preserve what is left of Cambodia’s environment. The project has already attracted famous faces like Laura Mam, Mean Sonyta, Khmeng Khmer, Miga, among other local celebrities.
The recent news that the Cambodian government signed off last week on the first dedicated Marine Fisheries Management Area in the Koh Rong Archipelago has given hope to the Jungle Project team. The more than 400 square kilometres of protected area, just 20 kilometers off the coast of Sihanoukville, should help protect the coral, mangroves, seagrass and other essential habitats. Dou is already planning her next body painting project in Koh Rong.
“Many animals are amazing and we do not even know they are in Cambodia,” she explains. “We want to provide a voice for the animals who can not scream for themselves.”
The Jungle Project will be held at Kaifun on Street 334 from 6:30-9 PM on Saturday evening.