Gibbons in Phuket

I went on a family trip to Phuket last week (10 June to 16 June 2012), and it was mostly (okay, entirely) fun and slack, lazing by the beach (actually more like jumping around, catching the waves) and doing random things like intro to yoga, muay thai and water polo in the resort.

Sunset at Mai Khao beach

But I also saw on the map (their maps are not very well drawn, and their roads not very well marked) that there was a Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP) in the middle of Khao Phra Thaew National Park, as well as Bang Pae Waterfall nearby. And my parents like waterfalls, for some reason or other, so we went there for a visit (:

Although the GRP was situated within the National Park, none of the entrance fees go to them, and they rely 100% on volunteers and donations.

An Agile gibbon in his cage

Most, if not all of these gibbons were rescued from the pet trade. Like many other primates, these gibbons were poached when young to be sold as pets, because they looked cute. Often, the mums would be shot dead before the babies could be taken, sometimes even entire families die for that one baby gibbon. 😦

This poor guy had to have his hand and foot amputated and will never be able to go back to the wild.

While most pet owners would take good care of their pets (I hope!), some don’t know how to. Or are incapable of doing so. They stuff them in tiny cages with barely room to move around, poor nutrition and insufficient exercise/mental enrichment. So even when rescued, some of the gibbons are not in good enough condition to be rehabilitated back to the wild and will live the rest of their lives captive.

These cages shown here are just one phase of the entire rehabilitation process. The gibbons, when rescued, cannot be immediately released back to the wild, as most will have lost their innate sense of survival and need to be slowly conditioned. They have to be tested for diseases and be strong enough to survive on their own in the wild.

And the same is true for every other animal that we humans have stolen from the wild and kept captive, decimating wild populations for the sake of entertainment or our pleasure or economic reasons. Be they gibbons or orang utans or sun bears or tigers or the many other animals we are slowly but hopefully not surely exterminating. And people like 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 Terrance Dillon Morin (an American Zoologist) who started the GRP in 1992 have my utmost respect and admiration for taking action to do something about it.

Because too often, things that we don’t like to happen, happen because people don’t want to take action. And we need people who have dared to stand up and take action to keep inspiring the rest of us (:

They’ve also got some very nice posters.

Snakes of Khao Phra Thaew Forest

Insects of Khao Phra Thaew Forest

Mammals and amphibians of Khao Phra Thaew Forest

Reptiles of Khao Phra Thaew Forest

Butterflies of Khao Phra Thaew Forest

And it was a very short trek to Bang Pae waterfall

It’s not as steep as it looks

No sweat for my parents (:

The waterfall wasn’t spectacular though, and we didn’t trek on further due to lack of time. Which was a pity I felt, I would have liked to walk around more, there is supposed to be lots of wildlife in that park.


But anyway, I’ll be spending the next 4 weeks in Gerik, Perak, Malaysia with Rimba, and hopefully will get to see lots of wildlife there too (: There will still be internet connection (though I’m not certain how often), so will probably still update this blog!


About Jocelyne Sze

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
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