Returning Thai Wild Animals to Their Rain Forest Home
Phuket is well known as a beach holiday destination. Less well known by the millions of annual visitors is the natural history of the island. Located on the northeast corner of Phuket, the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is the last rain forest refuge on the island. A couple of hundred years ago there used to be tigers, wild elephants and gibbons roaming the forests around the island. Starting with the Chinese migration to work the tin mines in the 19th century, to the steady increase in human habitation since that time, the forests have been slowly depleted until nowadays, the one patch of jungle that survives is Khao Phra Thaeo.
Inside the national park there is a short hike to a scenic waterfall. However, another important resource of the park is the gibbon project. The aim of this project is to rescue and rehabilitate gibbons that have been exploited in the tourism industry.
This sad tale is common to other wildlife but especially for these curiously cute but wild primates. Poachers will kill an entire family of gibbons only to escape with one infant. Unscrupulous individuals then exploit the baby gibbon by showing it to tourists, taking their photo then demanding a tip. The use of wild animals as props like this is slowly depleting the forests of Phuket and the south of Thailand. Tourists who naively accept taking a photo with the human-like baby gibbon are unknowingly fueling this destructive animal trade.
Once the gibbons grow too big to handle, or they start growing fangs they will be killed and dumped as rubbish as they can no longer make their owners any money. And then the cycle will start again. The gibbon project wants to rescue these animals from mistreatment, abuse and an early demise. Through a very slow process they can be re-introduced back into the rain forest. It can take years to teach the gibbons how to survive in the wild. Happily, with the dedicated efforts of volunteers, there have been many gibbons successfully returned to their native rain forest habitat in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park.
The Khiri Travel Thailand office in Phuket can organize visits to this part of the island. It’s an eye opening experience and a great place to take children and educate them on wildlife preservation. Through our charity arm, Khiri Reach, travelers have a chance to make donations to benefit this project.
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