Studies have found having a pet is a powerful health benefit. It has been reported caring for animals help you cope with depression, anxiety and stress. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, when you speak of pets, you usually think about dogs and cats, but why not fluffy rabbits? Did you know there is a farm in Phnom Penh which for years has been raising various species of rabbits which everyone loves to cuddle and bring home as their companion? Taing Rinith brings you to Cambofarm Rabbitry.
Travelling to the south from the heart of the capital on Hun Sen Boulevard for about 35 minutes, then turning left into a quiet neighbourhood brings you to a big plot of land, on which there is a small house. Close by is a large cage filled with hundreds of rabbits in different sizes and colours. There is no signage, but rabbit lovers in the kingdom know this place as Cambofarm Rabbitry, the first and only rabbit farm in the whole of Cambodia.
A thin woman in her early 30’s is brushing numerous rabbit kits in front of the house. She is cuddling them with care and love. Her name is Keo Malen and for almost a decade, she has been running this farm with her 36-year-old husband Srey Sovannarin.
“Only recently people have started to know of our place thanks to social media,” Malen says. “We are proud to be the first and only place in Cambodia to bring happiness to bunny-lovers.”
Malen, who used to work for a travel agency, married Sovannarith, a car mechanic, in 2010. Despite their different career backgrounds, the couple share their deep love for the long-ear, gregarious burrowing plant-eating mammals.
“We started raising a few rabbits at home in 2012, just as a hobby,” Malen says. “Before we knew, our rabbits began breeding and multiplying, from 3 or 4 to 10 and then 20.”
“So we thought we needed to find them a proper home,” Sovannarin adds.
The young couple started building small cages for them, but it was not long before the rabbits outgrew them. By that time, Malen learned her real passion was raising these adorable animals, not selling air tickets. Thus, she quit her job to spend all her time on building a farm. Sovannarin, who always supports his wife’s endeavours, gave up his small garage soon after.
“It is so much easier and cheaper to raise a pet rabbit than dog or cats,” Malen says. “We believe there is a market out here in Cambodia and we wanted to be the first to fill that hole.”
At first, things were not easy for the new rabbit farmers, who hardly had any experience in their new business. In 2013, a disaster hits the farm, as nearly two-thirds of their 300 rabbits perished.
“I was so sad and wanted to give up the idea of continuing with the farm,” Malen says. “It was very painful to see the adorable animals die right in front of us.”
“But, we persevered and we didn’t give up,” Sovannarin says. “The experience became a lesson to us, and we knew we needed to do some research and learn more about breeding bunnys.”
Their hard work paid off. Malen and Sovannarin are now managing a farm with more than a thousand rabbits of various species, including the rare breeds in the country such as Flemish Giant, Holland Lop and New Zealand Red. Every day, they are receiving countless orders from people, both locals and expats, who want to own these adorable creatures.
“We always keep in touch with those who buy our rabbits,” Malen says. “We give them tips and advice on how to take care of their pet properly.”
Despite their success, the couple dreams of making their rabbitry even bigger so that they camn assist bunny-lovers in finding their fluffy companions.
“It has not always been easy. We would not be here without our hard work and passion where we hope to give thousands of adorable long-ear companions to Cambodian people who will equally love them back,” Malen says.
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