|Giving Gibbons a New Life|
Phuket's Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Most of these animals were captured as babies - by shooting their mothers. On becoming adult at about six years old ther wild instincts emerged, and their owners could no longer handle them.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project at the Bang Pae Waterfall in the Khae Phra Thaew Wildlife and Forest Reserve was founded in 1992 by the late Terrence Dillon Morin, an American, with the object of returning as many gibbons as possible to the wild. The animals disappeared from the forests of Phuket in the 1980s. Located 10 kms east of the Two Sisters Monument along the road that passes the National Museum, its easy to find, and offers a rare insight into the lives of some of mankind’s most unfortunate relatives.
These lesser (according to size) apes, three species of which are native to Thailand and one a native of Phuket, had committed the perhaps mortal sin of being viewed by humans as incredibly cute when young. For this they were hunted down and whole families wiped out so that a gibbon youngster could be sold to a human family or tourist attraction as a pet, and earn 6,000 baht for forest hunters. People who smuggled them out of the country could make 300.000 baht.
An even greater threat to the animals is the degradation of their forest homes. Thailand loses 3,000 gibbons a year this way. All three species of gibbons in Thailand are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and it has been illegal to take a gibbon out the wild since 1992.
GRP was founded because so many gibbons were being held as pets in bars and at other tourist attractions in Phuket and around Thailand. The work of the GRP is financed almost exclusively through the donations of tourists who visit the rehabilitation site in the forest. Young enthusiastic guides explain the work of the project to visitors from seemingly every country under the sun in a 25-minute tour, which features a brief stand on an observation platform where visitors can see pretty clearly some of the animals who have not yet been moved to more isolated and larger cages higher up the hill.