New gibbon project in Ranong Province, Thailand


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Submitted by Tony Smallwood, WAR volunteer

5 October 2001

As a WAR volunteer I am writing to update you on our new gibbon project in Ranong Province, Thailand. The Gibbon Re-habilitation Project (GRP) in Phuket is already overcrowded and WAR are in the process of developing an additional sanctuary near Ranong. This will (subject to funding) be expanded to include a gibbon isolation area, a site for the 300 plus wild animals and birds that we have been asked to look after (these are presently held at a school) and a wildlife education centre.

Please see below for details.

We are keen to promote our activity and increase the general awareness of both the problems with wildlife conservation here in Thailand and aid our fund raising efforts.

Your help in promoting our activity would be appreciated.

Tony Smallwood
WAR Volunteer

The Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand (WAR)
235 Sukhumvit 31, Bangkok  10110, Thailand
Tel/Fax: +662-898-261 96 70
Secretary General:  Pornpen Payakkaporn

1. Project name & description of activity

The Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand; Gibbon Rehabilitation Project Bang Pae Waterfall, Phuket Island and Gibbon Isolation Sanctuary, Ranong, Thailand.

The gibbon sanctuary is located on Phuket Island 700 km south-west of Bangkok and has been operating for over ten years. It is dedicated to the welfare and protection of gibbons, many of which have been confiscated by the Thai authorities from situations of maltreatment and abuse. The main objective of the project is the preservation of gibbons and their rainforest habitat, which is achieved through the rehabilitation of suitable captive animals, and education of the local population and visiting tourists. Rehabilitation is a prolonged process involving male and female pairs who are gradually isolated from human contact until they reach a stage of self-sufficiency that will allow them to be safely released into a natural habitat, from which point - with continuing monitoring and observation - they are left to live a normal life.

Gibbons, primates on the CITES list of endangered species, are small monogamous territorial apes that live in the upper canopy of the lowland rainforest of South-East Asia. They have a unique form of locomotion displayed in an arm-to-arm swinging movement called brachiation. Also unique to gibbons are their loud territorial songs that can be heard for several kilometers in the rainforest. In the wild, they live for more than thirty years, feeding mainly on insects, fruit, leaves and flowers. Their continued presence, breaking branches that fall to the ground providing cover for smaller animals and insects, and spreading seeds through their droppings that regenerate the forest floor, are essential contributions to the rainforest's eco-balance. Whilst rainforest encroachment and actual destruction are the biggest threats to Thailand's gibbons, it has been illegal since 1992 to take gibbons from the wild, the local population also poaches them for meat, medicinal purposes and the pet trade. This has lead to many of Thailand's forests being under-populated with gibbons. It is a key objective of the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project to reverse this situation, where this adverse movement in the delicate balance of flora and fauna will ultimately affect the remaining Thai rainforest with dire results.

On arrival at the sanctuary, gibbons are given medical checks and go through a period of isolation, before becoming integrated with the rest of the community. At this time, they are introduced to a series of environments to establish if they have any natural behavior patterns in place that can be developed to allow for eventual release. Unfortunately for many, ill-treatment and human imprint make rehabilitation impossible, and for these animals, ongoing care must be provided within the confines of the forest as it must for others, whose prospects of release are prevented by the discovery of communicable diseases in the form of Hepatitis B and Herpes Simplex. The nature of these infections requires that these affected animals must be segregated from the rest of the community. Whilst the source of these infections has yet to be categorically established, two theories currently exist. One that infections are gained at the hands of humans, the other that these diseases are endemic in the wild population, though no research has been done thus far to confirm this. To enable us to complete this project, we require a total phased funding of just over US$ 100,000. A full breakdown of our budget is included in item 8 below. Due to generous donations recently received, namely from the Ford Foundation and the Abercrombie and Kent Global Fund, WAR have already raised US$ 41,000 towards this project. We are respectfully applying for further funding (US$60,000 needed to complete).

2. Need/Justification

Although the waterfall site can provide a protected natural environment for the healthy gibbons, space does not allow for expansion to create a secure isolation unit for the infected cases. In addition, to the work with gibbons, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project carries out a programme of education amongst local communities, schools and learning centres informing of the importance of preserving the rainforest and the creatures that live in it. Whilst it is encouraging to see that our message is received generally with genuine interest and a desire to change present practices, due mainly to the economic circumstances of the rural population, we are unlikely to see an end to forest encroachment and poaching in the foreseeable future.

As the gibbon sanctuary is the only one of it's kind in Thailand, this situation means there will be a steady continuing influx of unwanted and confiscated gibbons for a number of years to come. This creates further pressure on the need for space at the waterfall site and an even greater pressure for a larger segregated area for infected animals.

Our existing isolation facilities are inadequate, potentially posing the risk of the spread of the disease to the other gibbons, risks in respect of humans being relatively low. There is an urgent requirement to create a completely secure, managed, segregated area. It is proposed to do this in the province of Ranong, approximately 300 km from the existing sanctuary. There, the Royal Thai Forestry Department will make 5 rai (approximately 2 acres) of land available for the project, in what is already a protected area. This will allow for the formation of seven islands where the gibbons will live. Their homes will be in the tree top canopy that is their natural habitat. Surrounding them with water creates a secure area as they do not swim and have an aversion to it. This province being the most sparsely populated in the Thailand, comprising large areas of unspoiled forest and providing an ideal environment for animals with no prospect of ever gaining complete freedom.

3. Work plan

The creation of this segregated sanctuary has the full permission and backing of the Thai Royal Forestry Department and the Provincial Government of Ranong Province. The area where it is proposed the sanctuary will be created falls under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Department who are responsible for it's protection against encroachment, illegal logging and poaching. This area would not be available for access to the public; it being essential for the well being of the gibbons that they live in a secluded environment free from human contact. The main force of our involvement in the protection of the Thai rainforest lies in our contact with local populations explaining the dangers of poaching and logging and seeking their co-operation in restricting these practices. All our projects are eco friendly and are located in forest areas with the authority of the Royal Forestry Department with whom we work on a close level.

4. Expected outcome

The life span of the gibbon held in activity can be as long as forty years, and the present ages of infected gibbons range from 3 to 15. Whilst release from captivity can only be achieved by permission from the Royal Forestry Department, who will not give it for infected animals, and as no research has been undertaken on the incidence of disease in the wild population, it would be irresponsible of the Foundation to seek it. In these circumstances, the long-term objective of this project is to establish a living area for this group of animals in a natural and friendly environment, in a place that would in normal circumstances be their home albeit in managed secure conditions, for the protection of other animals from the infections that they carry.

Funding for the ongoing support of this venture will be sought through our established Adoption Programme, our paying volunteers scheme, and general fundraising activities in which we are continually involved.

5. Qualifications

The Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand (WAR) have been involved for many years both at the GRP and several other projects. We employ a full time veterinary surgeon at the GRP, and trained staff will be stationed at the new site to ensure that correct management procedures are employed in respect of methods involved in the feeding, caring and handling of the gibbons at all times. The importance of this project to the Foundation makes it necessary to be under direct supervision of our Secretary General, who will be responsible for all aspects of the work from start to completion. The ongoing management of the project will also be the responsibility of the Secretary General, who will administer the sanctuary with constant regard to the requirements of the Royal Forestry Department.

6. Expected outcome

Whilst initial blood tests revealed that 39 of the gibbons held at the waterfall sanctuary were carrying Herpes B or Herpes Simplex, with some being carriers of both, further random tests have in some cases proved negative. This means that a first priority for establishment of the isolation unit is the thorough retesting of all of the 39 gibbons found positive in the initial exercise, with those showing reconfirmed positive results being identified as first transferees to the isolation unit, and those showing negative results being tested again, and allowed to remain at the waterfall site if appropriate. It should be noted that there are no veterinary facilities available in Thailand for carrying out tests of this type, and that blood samples drawn by our resident veterinarian at the waterfall site will be forwarded to a Bangkok hospital for testing. On completion of the sanctuary, and having had the results of the blood tests, the animals will be transported by road to the centre and released on their islands. People from the local community will undertake the formation of the sanctuary which be carried out under the supervision of WAR and the Royal Thai Forestry Department. There will also be continuing employment for two local people, who after training will be required to act as animal handlers and carers.

7. Other

Establishment of this protected area will also provide opportunities for interested, qualified veterinarians and primatologists to study and carry out research on the infected gibbons, an area completely unexplored at present.

8. Budget and budget notes

Total Costs: Thai Baht 4,565,500
Total Costs: $US 101,455

Exchange rate employed 45 Thai Baht to 1$US

Budget and budget notes
This budget is for the development of the gibbon isolation sanctuary. We have an additional budget requirement of Thai Baht 10,000,000 ($US 225,000) for the further development of the wildlife sanctuary and education centre.

Medical cost have previously been explained in respect of blood tests and the sterilisation programme.
Employment costs
cover the stationing at the site of a veterinarian and a trained assistant. Additionally two animal carers who will be responsible for the feeding and handling of the animals and general care of the sanctuary.

Construction costs cover the formation of the 7 islands that will be created incorporating all the existing vegetation. Although it will be necessary for some excavation work to take place to make the moats that surround them. Costings for materials required for this are listed. The water level for the moats will be supplied by the natural rain fall. During the dry season, however, it may at times be necessary to pump in a supply to maintain the required level. The provision of an electric supply is to cover for any emergencies with the animals that might arise during the night.

Contingency / Moving Costs incorporate the movement of the animals from their present home in Phuket to Ranong. Additionally to cover for any shortfall in sums estimated for the construction work.

9. Timeframe

The project can commence on receipt of the first payment installment, and will take an estimated six months to complete. It should be noted, however, that it would be desirable for work to commence in November to allow for completion before the onset of the rainy season in May. Ranong is a particularly wet province, and the onset of the rainy season will preclude any work on the project.


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