The Gibbons Make Me Feel Sad

2008 November 26
by Sara

It wouldn’t be a worthwhile trip if we hadn’t been exposed to new things and learned from it. Yes, eating chicken curry, shopping for dirt-cheap deals, and seeing the most beautiful temples in all the world is a big reason to travel to Asia, but it’s not the only reason.

I suppose it’s important to learn about different issues and understand new cultures too.

So here goes…

1. Climate change is really happening. Well, duh, you say. Of course I knew it was happening, but we’ve heard stories from several different places to illustrate that fact.

In Cambodia our tour guide explained that rice farmers are suffering. The rainy season is starting later than normal and so much so that some of the rice crop didn’t make it. Now, the rainy season isn’t letting up and the rice that is ready for harvest isn’t surviving all that rain. Needless to say, these already poor farmers are poorer this year.

2. When it rained in China we were afraid the acid rain would burn off our skin. Enough said.

3. Gibbons are people too. Wait…no, they’re not. And this is exactly why people should not take them as pets.  In Phuket we visited the Gibbons Rehabilitation Center and learned about how people poach baby gibbons from the jungle.

The center is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing abandoned and illegally-owned gibbons in cities across Thailand. Many of these gibbons have been neglected or outright abused by their “owners” who bought the animal from poachers because as infants, gibbons make great pets. However, once they reach sexual maturity they become aggressive and often act out (as wild animals, often do).

It’s not legal to own a gibbon (they are apes, by the way), however, the government doesn’t do much to enforce the law.


Most all of the gibbons housed here have been mistreated–some beaten, some locked in tiny cages for most of their lives, and some much much worse. Most of these gibbons won’t be released back into the jungle because they won’t know how to survive.

Moral of this story: If you see someone with a pet gibbon, don’t pay to have your picture taken with him or her.

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