White-handed Gibbons, the Only Primate that Sings
“You can just drive all the way in, cross a bridge, and then you are there,” said Abang Sharul who told me about a White-handed Gibbons rehabilitation site in Malaysia. And when the time came, I realized that the bridge he mentioned was not as easy to cross as the way he put it. It is a very basic suspension bridge with broken platforms, hanging across a wide river few stories underneath. A “safety rope” hooked on the bridge is the only tool you rely on to cross the river.
Apparently what I felt like a “life threatening” journey is what Bam Arrogancia, the only IUCN certified gibbons rehabilitator in Malaysia has to go through daily. “Gibbons here are either confiscated or rescued from their owners. Many are traumatised; some lost their will to survive. It takes at least 5-10 years of rehabilitation before they are fit to be released back to their nature habitat,” said Bam.
Gibbons are monogamous, meaning once they have found their partner, they stay loyal forever. In order to capture a baby gibbon, the hunter has to kill their protective parents and elder siblings. As the Brachiating Kings, Gibbons need a lots of living space when they grow up. So in a small captivity they can be quite destructive due to the lack of space to brachiate and owners who have illegally owned them will then abandon them. Without rehabilitation, they will never survive. Hence, if you buy a gibbon, which is illegal by the way, you killed the whole family.
Sadly, there isn’t any government funded gibbons rehabilitation centre in Malaysia. Bam spent about RM44,000 within 6 months, we hope that the new government of the day will offer support to Bam. For public who intend to help, you may donate to Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia, look them up at Facebook.
I am uploading a lengthy video of my visit with detailed interview session with Bam, please visit Very Important Pet Magazine Facebook page for the video.
Plug Loopholes in Wildlife Conservation Act
In an article posted at TheStar Newspaper, Bam has called on the government to plug loopholes in Wildlife Conservation Act:
“Online traders are selling protected animals as exotic pets, driven by the fact that it is very trendy nowadays. Displaced from their natural habitat and families, these animals are doomed to suffer and die at the hands of their owners who generally lack knowledge on how to care for them.
In Malaysia, the trend for keeping exotic animals as pets came about in 2013 with the widespread use of social media. It has been reported that there are more active wildlife traders in Malaysia compared to Indonesia and these people use various platforms on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat and websites, to advertise their wares.
The existing Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) only prohibits possession of wildlife but not the selling, advertising and/or promoting of local wildlife for sale. The modus operandi of the trade involves brokers who do not keep the wildlife but helps an unknown wildlife keeper to sell the animal. When a buyer is found, the animal would be sent to him/her using bus couriers without even disclosing the point of origin.
This modus operandi exploits a loophole in the Act and has been responsible for thousands of endangered wildlife being sold as pets and for other purposes without any action taken by Perhilitan.
Weak enforcement also allows wildlife traders to set up syndicates that allow their business to thrive for a long period. Lenient fines also encourage wildlife traders to repeat the same crime even after being prosecuted. As such, there has been no prosecution for wildlife cruelty even when such cases happened and were reported in Malaysia, especially in zoos.
It is suggested that the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 be amended to include the posting, selling or offering of wildlife in all forms to be prosecutable by law. Perhilitan must collaborate with the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to track down the IP address and subsequently residential address or phone number of the social media accounts known to be selling or offering wildlife in order to make an arrest.
It must also collaborate with NGOs to supply intelligence and information regarding the sale of wildlife and offering of wildlife for sale.
The Animal Welfare Act 2015 must also be amended to include wildlife cruelty under the same jurisdiction, and enforce the law even on other government staff. The public should also do their part by not keeping wildlife as pets. Do not support wildlife trafficking but start appreciating them in the wild instead.
There’s an urgent need for collaboration among the public, NGOs and authorities to work towards ending the rampant sale of wildlife on social media and other public avenues as well. Without our efforts, Malaysia might soon be removed from the list of Megadiversity Countries where it is currently placed at 17th.
Our wildlife is part of our country. They are also Malaysian.”