A Visit to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket, Thailand
Phuket has no lack of animal related activities for visitors to experience while on holiday, although few seem to know much about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project located in the northern part of the island. While the tourists flock to attractions like Tiger Kingdom, elephant treks or snake shows, the Gibbons need some love too! Unfortunately, Thailand does not have the same animal rights laws as in much of the Western world, which can lead to rampant animal smuggling, abuse and the tourist many times unknowingly feed these industries.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is was truly established as a sanctuary to help care for and rehabilitate rescued White Handed Gibbons which have been brought to the center since its opening in 1992. On beaches and popular islands around Southern Thailand, you will often see gibbons dressed in baby clothes posing with tourists. While the animals are extremely cute and cuddly, we learned a whole other side of the story during our visit to the center.
Located in Paklock, the north east region of Phuket, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center is located in a national park, along with the popular Bang Pae waterfall. The 200baht entrance fee gives you access to both. The Gibbon Center is run by faithful volunteers who truly dedicate all their time and energy to nurse these rescued animals back to health and provide them a lifestyle they might never have known. We spoke to a lovely Brazilian volunteer who was donating her time at the center to care for the animals and help to educate anyone who stopped by for a visit. She was incredibly passionate about the animals and it was fascinating to learn all about them. Unfortunately, when the baby Gibbons are captured, the poachers often shoot their entire families out of the trees they are hiding in, and if the babies are lucky and survive the fall, are torn from their mother, teeth pulled out and then are sold into the tourism trade to be shown off in the popular beach areas.
“The gibbons were poached to extinction in Phuket over 30 years ago. The GRP hopes to repopulate this forest thought the rehabilitation for gibbons that were previously being help in captivity…”
As so many of the animal attractions in Phuket offer you up close and personal experiences with the animals, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is not the same. The animals are truly attempting to be introduced back into the wild and therefor the center works very hard to limit their interaction with humans. You are able to see a few of the Gibbons from the trail and can learn about the long term residents of the center, one missing an arm and a leg because of abuse, one over 20 years old, living his days at the center. While you are not about to get as close to the animals as many will want to, you sure will hear them sing. When one starts the others shortly chime in and the symphony of calls can be deafening and is an awesome thing to witness.
These animals are truly beautiful and cared for so gently and passionately by the volunteers at the center each and every day for over 20 years now. We were really happy that we made the trek up to Paklock and into the sanctuary. We also had a blast at the waterfall, which is well worth the short 10 minute hike. If you are in Phuket and want to get away from the tourist crowds, see a special part of the island and learn about active animal conservation going on in the area, don’t miss a half day trip up to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project and the Bang Pae Waterfall, its time well spent!
Jeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to forget them all.
A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh.
Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll respond super fast!