The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket, Thailand has been operating for over 20 years and is not only fighting to keep one of Phuket’s iconic symbols alive and in the wild where they belong, but also to keep their independent charity foundation up and running too. They care for many other rescued or injured animals like Lemurs, the Slow Loris and more but the costs of medicine are high and so are visits to the vets.
The work they do is imperative to the survival of these unique apes and the only chance of keeping a wild population in existence. They educate locals and tourists on how they can help be part of the solution and advocate against the wildlife pet trading and the use of animals as Photo Props.
We would like to introduce you to ‘our’ 2 ladies who we ‘adopt’ on a yearly basis to ensure they get the food and medical supplies they need – these are their stories and their current situation.
If you want to help in any way too then please see our project page.
Tam(♀) was born in the wild in 1994, she is a permanent resident at GRP due to her physical disabilities. Tam was previously kept as a pet and when her wild instincts caused her to disagree with the human owner, he beat her and left the resulting injuries untreated for too long. By the time Tam received help, the only way to save her from dying was to amputate a hand and a foot. Subsequently her new owner tried to house her with other gibbons. Tam was attacked and lost 3 fingers on her remaining hand. Shortly after this event, Tam was brought to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, in December 2002.
Despite all odds, Tam gets on well with her life at the center. She is housed in a double set of small cages, instead of a large one, as she needs the support from the mesh to maneuver around. Constantly using the two fingers on her one hand causes skin irritations, so volunteers and staff apply baby powder and lotion on a daily basis to avoid infection. Tam does not always cooperate with this procedure, but they patiently groom her until she allows the treatment.
Although Tam loves to spend time with her best friend Bo (♂), she is lacking of social skills and has given Bo some nasty bites in the past. It would seem only natural that she would easily distrust both people and other gibbons, given her traumatic past. However, she is normally a very cheerful gibbon and one of the loudest singers onsite.
Rumthai (♀) was born wild in 2001. GRP staff said that when she was brought into the center, she was one of the most distressing cases. She had been cruelly kept inside a tiny birdcage with virtually no room to move. Her spine and arms were deformed and got extremely small and weak. She also suffers from a degenerative condition called Kyphoscoliosis syndrome, probably caused by a blunt trauma to the spine when her mother was shot and she fell down from the treetops. Shooting the mother gibbon is the only way poachers get a baby gibbon for the pet trade.
She soon shows GRP staff what a survivor she is. Gradually, she gains strength and starts brachiating a little, although she has always preferred to pick things up with her feet. She is able to enjoy the company of other gibbons. Because of her ability to make friends and socialize, she is a well-adjusted female gibbon. She is psychologically healthy.
Unfortunately, she cannot live in the wild. She also cannot survive getting pregnant. Her physical health has always been fragile over the years. She has struggled with skin and fur problems and in addition she has always been a very picky eater.
For the past few years she is kept next to her good friend Jep (♂) – the two get a lot of comfort from each other. Despite her small stature, she most definitely has the biggest voice of all the gibbons currently residing in the center.