A VERY classic scenario: you’re having a stroll in one of Thailand’s southern beaches and stumble upon a man who approaches you with the cutest animal you’ve ever seen; a baby gibbon. After a few laughs and smiles, the man offers you to take a picture with the animal for a fee; you accept, thinking of all the likes and comments you’ll receive after posting that picture on your social media.
First of all, I hope you didn’t accept such proposition and instead decided to report it to the authorities. And if you did accept, you are now partly responsible for the slaughter of these beautiful creatures, whose number has been drastically reduced in the past years.
For each baby gibbon captured to work as a photo prop, an entire family has been decimated. I am not even talking about the torture those captured animals have to go through, such as having their nails and teeth brutally removed, so that they do not harm the tourists.
Enters Phuket’s Gibbon Rehabilitation Project; a non-profit organization located on the eastern part of Phuket, a region called Pak Lok. At the foot of the Khao Pra Theaw Non-Hunting Area, this sanctuary has been operating since 1992 and aims at rehabilitating gibbons that have been used in the trade, hoping to release them to the jungle once they can be on their own.
Currently, the project hosts 60 gibbons, some of them who won’t be able to be released as their trauma is just too difficult to handle. You can pay them a visit Monday to Saturday and have a look at the gibbons in their natural habitat.
Please note that this is not a zoo and you won’t be able to touch the animals nor feed them; you will only be able to see them happily swinging from one tree to another.
While the entrance to the sanctuary is free of charge, you will be asked to pay an entrance fee to the National Park Officers in order to access the premises. They also have a small souvenirs shop on site, with all proceeds helping to buy food and vaccine for the lovely animals.
You can get more information on their website at www.gibbonproject.org.
By Nattha Thepabamrung