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The Giant Puppet Project 2012 Report

The Giant Puppet Project 2012 2012 was the most successful fundraising year to date for the Giant Puppet Project, Siem Reap. After months of searching for sponsors, running fundraisers and asking good friends and family for their kind and generous support, the 2012 Giant Puppet Project came to fruition and was an incredible success. Project workshops began on 6th February; Artistic Director Jig Cochrane and his small team of international volunteer artists travelled to Phare Ponlue Selpak Visual Arts School in Battambang to hold an Artists Masterclass with over 30 young students from the school. The Giant Puppet Project have incorporated the skills of students from Phare Ponlue Selpak since 2009.

By the end of the first week, the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin was born. The Sunda Pangolin is the only species of scaly anteater found in Cambodia. Their alarming decline have conservationists and scientists questioning how much longer this delicate creature will survive in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Local use of Pangolins and their body parts is steeped in superstition. They are the most valuable wild animals on the Cambodian market and their dwindling numbers are increasing their worth in the illegal wildlife trade, creating the perfect recipe for fast extinction.

Following the success of the masterclass in Battambang, Jig and his crew returned to Siem Reap along with six students from Phare Ponlue Selpak. Week two of the workshops began by bringing together ex-pat children, attending local mixed nationality schools, with children from Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund (CLMMRF), a shelter for child landmine survivors. The giant puppet chosen for this workshop was the Chinese Water Dragon as 2012 is the Year of the Dragon in the Lunar Calendar. The Chinese Water Dragon The Chinese Water Dragon, also known as Asian Water Dragons, can grow up to 3 feet in length for males and up to 2 feet for females. Commonly found along the banks of freshwater lakes and streams, they are active during the day (diurnal), and spend most of their time in trees.

If threatened, the dragon will drop from the trees into the water and either swim to safety or remain submerged for up to an astonishing 25 minutes. Most will have a life span between 10-20 years. For workshop number three, the Artists were split into three groups, with the Student Artists from Phare running two of the three workshops independently. This exercise is crucial to the future of the Giant Puppet Project, we see these wonderfully talented students as the true leaders of this project in the years to come.

Taking on the creative responsibility of the critically endangered Clouded Leopard and our tribute to the ancient Khmer martial art of Bokator the students went to work with children from three local Non-Governmental Organisations. All NGO’s participating in the Giant Puppet Project are registered organisations offering disadvantaged children in Siem Reap opportunities in education, improved nutrition and safe shelter. The Clouded Leopard The clouded leopard is a critically endangered reclusive, nocturnal cat that spends most of its time hiding in trees; its ecology is largely unknown. Commonly known as being one of the best tree climbers of all wildcats it has a distinctive coat that resembles cloud formations, which is unrivaled in beauty. Their canine teeth are exceptionally long at 4cms.

Although there have only been a few observations in Cambodia, the presence of this enigmatic carnivore has been confirmed by camera traps in the Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province. Both its beautiful coat and excessive logging threatens the existence of this species in the wild (considered Vulnerable by the IUCN Red ListTM). The Ancient Khmer Martial Art of Bokator Bokator is the earliest systemised Khmer martial art. The term Bokator is itself a possible indicator of its age. Pronounced "bok-ah-tau", the word means "to pound a lion". This refers to a 2000 year old legend which claims a lion was viciously attacking a defenseless village when a warrior defeated the animal bare-handed by using a combination of strategic kicks and punches.

Bokator exponents still wear the uniforms of ancient Khmer armies. A Krama (traditional Cambodian scarf) is folded around their waist and blue and red silk cords called ‘sangvar day’ are tied around the combatants head and biceps. In the past it was said that the cords were enchanted to increase strength, now they are ceremonial. Tradition indicates that Bokator, or an early form thereof, was the close quarter combat system used by the armies of Angkor 1000 years ago. Bas-reliefs at the base of the entrance pillars to the Bayon Temple (built in the 12th century), depict various techniques of Bokator. Khmer Scholar Choun Nath Samdech Sangha Raja Jhotañano Chuon Nath (1883 – 1969) is the late Supreme Patriarch Kana Mahanikaya of Cambodia. Amongst his achievements are his tireless efforts in the conservation of the Khmer language. He is remembered for his passionate protection of Khmer identity and history in the form of the Cambodian national anthem.

Choun Nath was the head of a reformist movement in the Khmer Buddhist Sangha, where he developed a rationalist-scholastic model of Buddhism, rooted in linguistic studies of the Pali Canon. This new movement influenced young Khmer monks in the early 20th century and cultivated Khmer-language identity and culture. Widely credited as the most famous and knowledgeable monk in Cambodia’s history, Choun Nath was a master in Buddha’s teaching. He oversaw the translation of the entire Buddhist Pali cannon into Khmer language and the creation of the Khmer language dictionary.

The Asian Elephant Sacred yet exploited, the Asian Elephant has been worshiped for centuries and is still used today for ceremonial and religious purposes. Not only is it revered for its role within Asian culture and religion, it is also a key biological species in the tropical forests of Asia.

In Cambodia, elephants are primarily found in the mountains of the south-west and in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri Provinces. Recent surveys in Mondulkiri Province suggest that important numbers remain in that area. However, the population has dropped significantly from 2,000 in 1995 to an astonishingly low 250-600 in 2008. Giant Forest Scorpion The giant forest scorpion is predominantly tropical or subtropical, but some species do live in temperate regions. During the day they hide in crevices or under objects, emerging only at night to feed, mostly on other arthropods.

Giant forest scorpions are common in Cambodia and neighbouring nations, they belong to the family Scorpionidae. They are generally large in size (100 - 200mm). Coloration is dark in most species, often uniformly brown or black. Due to their impressive size, low toxicity and docile behaviour, giant forest scorpions are popular pets.

The Bengal Florican The Bengal Florican, also called Bengal Bustard, is an extremely rare bustard species. This threatened bird is almost extinct with perhaps as few as 500 adult birds remaining. Mostly resident on its breeding grounds, around the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia, the birds use grasslands near the lake to breed and move away from the water in the monsoon season when the breeding grounds are flooded. It is mostly found in Kampong Thom Province; while lesser numbers are found in Siem Reap Province, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Pursat Provinces. Its rate of decline there has accelerated and the bird's numbers may plummet to effective extinction very soon.

The government of Cambodia has taken a significant step towards protecting important habitat for the Bengal Florican. In an effort to save this endangered flagship species from extinction, more than 350 square kilometers have been designated as "Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas", where land-use practices are adapted that also benefit the Bengal Florican. A public education program to inform schoolchildren about the bird has also been undertaken. During the course of the workshop an expert from a local bird conservation sanctuary came to speak to the children about the importance of these rare and beautiful creatures. For more information on the Giant Puppet Project, please visit or email us on

Giant Puppet Project 2012 Report  
Giant Puppet Project 2012 Report  

2012 Report from Project Enlighten partner GPP.