Gibbon rehabilitation project, a Phuket Association, Thailand
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PAWS: Phuket Animal Welfare Society

 Gibbon Rehabilitation Project

Fifty years ago, Phuket residents were afraid to cross the island as the jungles still had tigers, wild boars, tapirs and a rich wildlife that has all but disappeared with development. Also living on the island in great numbers were gibbons, a species of small ape, whose natural habitat stretches from northeast India to the remote islands of Indonesia.

However, by the 1990s, the only gibbons that could be found on Phuket were those chained to poles in bars in Patong. Gibbons became valuable as entertainment for tourists and instead of their natural diet of forest vegetation, they were fed peanuts and beer.

The gibbons were being hunted in the Andaman region by local poachers who could earn a monthly salary by capturing just one infant gibbon. Unfortunately, the only way to catch a young gibbon was to shoot the mother and hope the infant would fall to the jungle floor unharmed. Only one in every three manages to survive this ordeal.
In 1992, an American zoologist and filmmaker, TD Morin decided to set up a sanctuary for the gibbons who were living in captivity and attempt to train them to return to their natural habitat.

TD convinced the Royal Forest Department to allow the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project to occupy land next to the Bang Pae Waterfall near the Heroines Monument of Phuket. Next he convinced volunteers to help raise funds for medical supplies, food and cages for the gibbons who needed to be retrained to live in the wild.

He developed a gibbon release program whereby the retrained gibbons would eventually be released on small islands in the Andaman Bay.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project soon attracted international attention. In Europe, environmental action groups such as Green Volunteers, Wolf Trail and Europe Conservation recruited young volunteers who each paid for the opportunity to live and work for the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project.
The Australian government, through its program AusAid, provided funds for an education program.

Local volunteers such as Captain Roy Petrie, a retired airline pilot with Saudi Air and Singapore Airlines, brought Dr. Robert Cleaves, founder of the Wilderness Conservancy in Southern Africa, to Phuket with a donation of 100 syringe darts and 200 needles from an American company, TELE-INJECT.

The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project has also attracted interest in the veterinary community. Dr. Werner Krause retired from his practice in Brandenburg, Germany, and decided to volunteer at the gibbon project on Phuket where he became the resident veterinarian.

Today, the GRP is managed by the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand. Funding from international aid groups has been cut and the GRP depends more on cash donations from visitors to the site. 

You can help preserve the gibbon population on Phuket by visiting their home at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. Not only will you be able to enjoy the tropical jungle and Bang Pae waterfall, but a donation to this worthwhile project will ensure that the gibbons will again swing freely through the surrounding trees.

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