Traveling with kids means also making sure that they learn more about the world around them.
There are a lot of fun things to see and do in a new country. However there are also big problems that we cannot hide from. Actually we should try understand better and possibly make our part in passing the word. Today we learned about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project and how mistreated these animals are.
Where did we go?
Up in the Northeast of Phuket, in a heavily forested area, you will find the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park and the Bang Pae waterfall. This is the park where Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is located.
What type of organization is this? Their main goal is to successfully rehabilitate the white-handed gibbons back into their natural habitat.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project was set up in 1992 by Mr. Noppadol Preuksawan, the chief of the Royal Forest Department in Phuket at that time, Mr. Thavrn Sri-Oon, Bang Pae Sub-Station chief, the Asian Wildlife Fund, and an American Zoologist called Terrance Dillon Morin. In 1994 the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand (WARF) started to support the project and we are now a research division of WARF.
Gibbon poaching is a big problem in Phuket. The “Wild Animal Preservation and Protection Act”, since 1992 prohibits taking Gibbons from the wild. It states that it is illegal to own one as a pet unless proven that it is born in captivity. However, they are still taken as pets or for tourism. They are paraded around tourist bars for money. Please consider that if you decide to take a picture with a Gibbon you are going against the law and helping these people to push gibbons to extinction!
Important poaching facts
There are a few interesting facts about Gibbons poaching that make this situation even more dramatic.
Fact #1: When poaching a Gibbon, what they are aiming at capturing are the babies. A baby gibbon for the first 2 years of his life lives attached to his/her mother. As a result, to catch the baby they kill the mother. Unfortunately once the mother falls from the tree, the baby ends up dying as well. So to capture one baby, who knows how many they end up killing before!
Fact #2: Once these babies reach sexual maturity at 6 or 7 years old, they develop large canines and become aggressive. This is the age when they are usually beaten, abandoned, killed, or have their teeth removed and are confined to a cage. The owner will then move on to a new baby that will be easier to handle with tourists.
What happens at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
When a gibbon comes to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project it receives a medical check. It undergoes blood tests for various diseases and is then placed in a quarantine area.
Before gibbons are ready for release, they are put through a long rehabilitation program. This involves putting them through a series of environments. The goal is to encourage natural behaviors. This provides them with the opportunity to practice brachiating, eating natural foods, and having minimum contact with humans.
The project has reintroduced 32 gibbons into the wild. Around half of them have successfully adapted to their newfound freedom and 15 babies have been born wild so far.
Most of the gibbons rescued, however, suffer from physical damage or mental trauma and must stay in the shelter for the rest of their lives.
The gibbons that stay at the rehabilitation center
The Gibbons are being kept in large cages. Some are close together so they can be social. Some instead are paired together.
Gibbons swing around and sing their distinctive song. We were lucky to have a chance to hear it while we were there and it was very loud!
Each cage also has a little bit about the gibbon living in it. This gave us a chance to read their names and learn more about their personal stories. For example, Tam has one hand and one foot missing due to mistreatment by his “owner”. In fact, Tam was captured as a baby but once he was older he became aggressive. The owner reacted violently to this. He didn’t take care of the gibbon, so after suffering blood poisoning they had to amputate hand and foot. He will never be able to go back in the wild.
Then there is Bo, who had been successfully rehabilitated and was paired with Lek. Once they had a baby they were placed in the wild. However, Bo kept on leaving his family and coming back to the shelter. After the sixth time, they realized that he wasn’t able to stay in the wild. His baby on the other hand grew up and had a baby. Bo is now a grandfather and this family is successfully living in the wild.
How to help the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
As a privately funded foundation, the GRP always welcomes donations, they accept via Pay Pal, by bank transfer, or in cash at the donation boxes at the project site. We decided to make a donation as well as buy a toy Gibbon and some other products to help this amazing organization. We have so much respect for all the people who volunteer their time and care for this project.
For respect of the animals we saw there, I’m not sharing any photos of the real Gibbons. However, you can see a shot of the toy one that came home with us. We named him after Gibby, one of the Gibbons we saw at the shelter. Our kids cannot stop talking about him!
If you are ever in Phuket and see Gibbons being used illegally email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, lets spread the word and help save the gibbons!
If you have the chance, go visit the project and meet the gibbons!
If you want to see more about Thailand click here!
Check out the lovely hotel we stayed at Seapines Villa Liberg!!!