Travelling has taught me many lessons,
some about life, some about people, and a lot about culture –
Mostly though, it has taught me a lot about myself.
– I am blessed for these moments –
My ‘now’ Husband and I were recently wed in beautiful Thailand, Phuket to be exact.
We had always wanted a destination wedding (ever since my sister Joanne married in Mexico two years ago), so we thought why not have it somewhere warm
(as August is still Winter in Australia) and somewhere affordable, where all our family, friends and loved one’s can go and have a great time all together.
All in all we had 34 guest make the wedding, all staying in Phuket soaking up the sun (that occasionally appeared through the rain) and the chance to all be away together.
Being wholehearted, deep passionate animal lovers, my incredibly amazing Husband always try’s to find places for us to go while traveling abroad where we can in some small way contribute in a positive manner to animals and their welfare.
Weather it be a sanctuary of some kind, a rehabilitation centre or even helping rangers, national parks or local dog and cat shelters, as long as we can help, or actively participate in some sort of way to make a positive change!
We were blessed enough on this trip to go to two locations where we were left feeling we had some how contributed to the greater good of these animals lives, this is the first location we attended.
– Song of the Gibbon –
Each time we travel to Phuket we always ensure we make time to go visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project centre.
Ryan and I attended 3 years prior and after witnessing first hand the amazing work they do and the tremendous battle volunteers are constantly faced with, we swore if we were ever to return to Thailand we would go back and help in what way we could.
Gibbons, sadly are often used as ‘photo prop’ animals in Phuket for tourist who are either completely unaware of the cruelty they are participating in or you sadly
then have other ‘tourist’ (Insert severe biting of tongue) that simply do not care.
They see it as “just an animal” and that they are there purely for human entertainment, amusement or simply do not matter.
– If only tourist were better educated and actually listened to the background story –
Harsh History Lesson 101
For every cute baby Gibbon you see in Phuket, getting a photo with a tourist, hanging off their ‘owners’ arm begging for food or hiding from the bustling traffic hurling past the busy main roads, it’s estimated that between 10 – 15 wild adult Gibbons were killed in order to obtain that one ‘cute baby Gibbon’.
Yes that was not a typo 10 to 15!
Still not deterred yet?
That one cute baby Gibbon was a wild animal,
it was born wild, it has natural instincts and defence mechanisms (like every animal on the planet including humans) so in order to make it “Safe” for tourist to grab a gleaming photo with the Gibbon, the ‘owners’ drug the Gibbon on a regular basis*.
However, to ensure our naïve, gullible tourist don’t get hurt for irresponsibly handling a wild animal, for aggressive Gibbons the ‘owner’ forcibly removes their Canine teeth to ensure no nasty bites take place (I highly doubt they take the Gibbon to the local vet to remove them in a safe and pain free manner) so please feel free to use your imagination for that part.
Still want that photo with the cute baby?
That cute baby Gibbon who has now had it’s whole family clan shot dead in order to be stolen, who has then had it’s teeth painfully, forcibly removed and is constantly drugged to keep docile, then starts to grow.
By the time the cute baby reaches adolescents it’s hormones starts to change rapidly. Suddenly that cute baby Gibbon, is now an aggressive hormonal teenager.
The sudden and growing hormone rate, the gibbon now becomes too difficult for the ‘owner’ to ”drug correctly” so the owner now does one of four things.
1) the Gibbon is killed through accidental overdosing
2) the Gibbon is Dumped to die as it is two difficult to use anymore for money
3) If the Gibbon is lucky enough the owner donates the Gibbon to the rehabilitation centre.
or 4) and most common, they kill the Gibbon and obtain a new baby gibbon, starting the cycle of 10 – 15 gibbons being shot dead.
I know what you are thinking – Your thinking “Gee option 3 was a great outcome for the Gibbon” and you would be right, However, there is still the disturbing truth that due to constantly being drugged, Gibbons become addicted to the substance and even worse, sadly in many cases, become HIV positive (AIDS) due to their owner using ‘dirty needles’ on them, resulting in the Gibbons never being allowed to be released into the wild again due to the natural spreading of AIDS.
This means not all Gibbons saved by the centre get to be released back into the wild. Sadly these Gibbons who are positive for AIDS will spend the rest of their life on medication to try and treat symptoms of the cruel, terminal disease.
Bet you regret getting that ‘cute’ photo for your Facebook wall now.
The Gibbon rehabilitation project has been running now for an amazing 23 years relying mainly on volunteers dedicating their time and lives to save those of the Gibbons.
The rehabilitation program works to pair eligible mating couples to then release them into safe, protected, national park lands and sanctuary’s (as sadly they only get re-poached in the wild) to hopefully re-produce and start a family network themselves.
Gibbons were wiped out through poaching by 1980s on Thailand’s popular Phuket island. Now they are making a comeback through WARF’s Gibbon Rehabilitation Project.
Each time we go, we ensure that we donate as much as we can in the form of money as we are currently unable to volunteer.
The rehabilitation centre has a range of great promotional material you can purchase in person and online for those of you not heading to beautiful Thailand, such as key rings, t-shirts, toys, colouring books, mugs and photo frames.
Along with Donating and buying promotional material, you can also ‘adopt’ a Gibbon.
There are many different ways in which you can adopt a Gibbon and for different price ranges and periods of time, so there is an option for everyone.
I know, you’re probably feeling glum reading this blog due to so many harsh truth been thrown your way, some not pretty, but I am a firm believer in honesty no matter how ‘ugly’ and when animals don’t have a voice as decent humans we must be theirs!!
On that note though, have faith, you know me Chiefs, there is always a positive lining to most situations!
Three year’s ago I chose to adopt a Gibbon who could never be released from captivity.
My heart had fallen in love, a connection made and this August I re-adopted her.
I would love to share her story with you.
– Please meet Endoo –
Endoo means ‘sympathy’ or ‘pity’ in Thai. She was born in 1998 and was kept as someone’s ‘pet’.
Due to being severely mistreated by her ‘owner’ the neighbours of the owner took Endoo and gave her to the GRP. Sadly though due to her mistreatment Endoo had formed mental health conditions and formed a self-harming disorder.
Endoo would constantly bite and scratch herself. I was told from volunteers that due to this horrible disorder Endoo had formed, GRP had to remove her canine teeth in order for her own safety.
Because of this and her instability emotionally and mentally, it is unlikely she will ever be paired or allowed to be released into the wild for her own protection.
While we visited this year, the staff informed me that she was doing a lot better and her anxiety had been really good lately, she lives away from the front of the centre where it is more peaceful up the back and away from stressful situations, she even gets fed first each morning to ensure she does not get stressed.
We went with the intention of helping the Gibbons and those who dedicate their lives to the needs of these beautiful creatures, we went in the hope of trying to make a difference, to make a positive change on their life, Little did we know, it would be them that would ultimately forever change us.
I leave you beautiful Chiefs with a message I sourced from the GRP website – Enjoy.
Message from our HEARTS
We are fighting the sorrow and the obstacles, We try to make our dream come true everyday,
With our strength and energy, Our hopes and our dreams we wish to hear the gibbon’s song again.
We are trying to release gibbons back to their natural habitat, We hope to rebuild the gibbon’s population in Khao Pra Thaew,
It’s our dream for the animals to be able to live and sing free in this forest, The forest which will be home to all animals.
Finally, the song of the gibbon is echoing around this forest again, We hope all of you will help us keep the song going, With your support and belief, we can make our dream come true, Our dream to fill Khao Pra Thaew, the last remaining forest of Phuket with gibbons, the home for all animals.