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A gibbon looks around its new home in the jungle of Maehongson

WFFT’s First Release of Gibbons Back into the Wild

On March 4th 2010, the first four gibbons moved from the WFFT wildlife rescue Center to the “Lum Nam Pai Wildlife Sanctuary” in Maehongson Province, Thailand.

At this Wildlife Sanctuary, a lush and dense jungle in the North of Thailand, a unique project was build by the WFFT in cooperation with the Department of National Parks and Mahidol University. The main objective of this project is to prepare gibbons for a return to the wild, to release them and follow up on their moves and behavior as they face the challenges of the wild once more.

Kookoo – Formerly exploited as a photo prop, he is now awaiting his full reintroduction to the wild.

The First Gibbons

Kookoo is an approximately 9 year old male gibbon who was found at the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Kookoo was used as a photo-prop until he became 3 years of age and ended up alone in an enclosure in front of a woman’s house. When WFFT learned about his fate we asked the owner if Kookoo could live with pother gibbons at the WFFT Wildlife Rescue Center and was rescued in 2003 where he learned to live with other gibbons on an island together with Bank and Dollar.

Bank and Dollar are a male and female gibbon, also both from the floating market. These two gibbons were taken away from the floating market in 2004 after their owners found it very difficult to further exploit these two gibbons as raids by the police were more frequent than ever before on wildlife crimes. Eventually the owners called WFFT and asked for a rescue.

Ply is a 2 year old female gibbon born on the WFFT Island 8, part of the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre at WFFT, and she is a child of Dollar and Kookoo. Ply was never handled by people until the day she moved to the Maehongson release center.

After being sedated by WFFT staff using blowdarts, all 4 gibbons were given full medical check ups, in accordance with pre-release guidelines.

The Move

Before the 4 gibbons could be taken anywhere, they first had to be captured from their current enclosure by WFFT staff. After being confined to a smaller side-enclosure, each gibbon was sedated by means of a blowdart, before being taken to the WFFT wildlife hospital.

Each gibbon was then given a full medical examination, and blood samples were taken for analysis, to ensure that they are fit and healthy for travel, and that once the gibbons are released into the wild, they will pose no heath threat to any native gibbons.

Finally, after hours of hard work by the WFFT staff, the four gibbons were put into travel cages, before being loaded onto WFFT vehicles. The gibbons were transported overnight, in order to avoid prolonged exposure to the heat of the day. 12 long hours later, after several stops for food, water and medical checks to ensure they were coping well with the trip, Kookoo, Bank, Dollar and Ply arrived at the Gibbon Release & Research Centre in Maehongson.

After transportation overnight, all 4 gibbons were successfully transferred to the Pre-Release cages, in order to adjust to their new surroundings.

Pre-Release Cages

When the gibbons arrived at Maehongson, WFFT staff were onhand to unload the tired primates from the trucks. The sights, sounds and smells of Maehongson will be very new to these 4 gibbons, and so before being released into the wild, they first have to spend some time in our large Pre-Release cages.

This will help them not only recover from their long journey north, but also to become familiar with their new surroundings.

After further health checks, the gibbons were transferred to the Pre-Release cages by WFFT staff. After a brief explore of their new surroundings, all four of the gibbons promptly fell asleep! Tired from their long journey, they snoozed for most of the day, only to awake at feeding times.

After a day or so, the gibbons were back into the swing of things, full exploring their cages and starting to adjust to their new habitat.

Eventual Full Release

After the gibbons have adjusted to the sights and sounds of their new surroundings, Kookoo, Bank, Dollar, and Ply will be finally released back into the wild in the near future. Thanks to the years of hard work spent rehabilitating these gibbons, they will soon have the opportunity to roam free in the wild again, back where they belong. After release, the gibbons and their activities will be monitored from a distance by WFFT staff, and students from Mahidol University, helping us to gain further knowledge about their lives and behaviour in their natural habitat. The site will be run in accordance with IUCN guidelines on reintroduction of primates.

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