Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Up in the Northeast of Phuket in a heavily forested area is the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park and the Bang Pae waterfall. To get there, you head North on the airport road from Phuket Town and turn right at the Heroine's Monument, then drive around 10km - the entrance on the left side is easy to find... there's a map at the bottom of the page. We have been up this way many times, not just for the Gibbon Project and Bang Pae Waterfall which is found just past the Gibbon Project, but nearby is Bang Pae Seafood and also Bang Rong, where you find a floating restaurant and you can get a ferry to the island of Koh Yao Noi. There's a restaurant called Peang Prai just at the entrance gate to the waterfall.
As you drive up to the park entrance the roadside is lined with rubber trees as is much of this Northern area of Phuket. Rubber was once very important to the economy of Phuket and indeed it continues to be important. There are also fields of pineapples nearby, but once you hit the park entrance you are in the jungle, baby! At the entrance gate there is (normally) an entry fee to pay. Last time we visited there was nobody collecting entrance fees. It was mid afternoon, about 3:30pm. I have heard that after 4pm entry is always free, but can't 100% confirm this!
The Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP) is based here - this organisation aims to protect gibbons and their habitat through rehabilitation and education. It's a sad fact that gibbons are caught and kept as pets in Thailand and even hawked round the streets in Phuket to have photos taken with tourists. This is illegal. The project takes in gibbons who have been rescued, taken away from their "owners" by the police or that have been handed in by owners who no longer wish to look after them. They then go through a long rehabilitation before often being released back into the forests. Not all can be released. Below is a video (from July 2012) of a gibbon called Tam who has one hand and one foot missing due to mistreatment by his "owner". He can't be released.
The Gibbons that are being kept here can be seen in large cages like the one above. Some are close together so the gibbons can be social, some gibbons are paired together. There are information boards with lots of details about the gibbons and the work of the GRP.
Gibbons swing around and sing their distinctive song. Some sit quietly. They all have names and have quite different personalities. The information boards tell you more about the individuals. It's not a place you can spend hours, unless you are a particular gibbon fan I guess .. but the volunteers there are always happy to talk and answer questions.
If you are in Phuket (the worst place is Bangla Road in Patong) or anywhere else in Thailand and see a gibbon being taken round the streets for tourists to take photos, please take a photo and email it to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project - firstname.lastname@example.org - tell them where and when the photo was taken. You can also email the Natural Resources and Environment Crime Division at email@example.com. Please note that the project gets none of the National Park entry fee (200 Baht for foreigners), so any donation you can make is appreciated. They have a small shop (photo above) selling gibbon related souvenirs. For more about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project see the web site www.gibbonproject.org.
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (and Bang Pae Waterfall) - Location Map
View Bang Pae Waterfall and Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in a larger map