KOTA KINABALU: An effort to shine a light on gibbons, a lesser-known endangered species in Sabah, is underway with the introduction of a rehabilitation project in a village in Kota Belud.
The Borneo Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (Borneo GReP) to be based in Kampung Kiau, 90km from Kota Kinabalu, is the first such project in this state to focus on these singing apes.
It is the second rehabilitation centre of the Gibbon Conservation Society (GCS) after the first one in Raub, Pahang, which was started in 2013, said GCS president Mariani "Bam" Ramli.
While its Peninsular counterpart focused on three species - Lar Gibbon, Agile Gibbon and the Siamang - the one in Sabah will focus on the North Bornean Gibbon and Abott’s Gray Gibbon.
Work to build enclosures began in April this year and they plan to house five rescued gibbons from Sabah Wildlife Department in the initial phase, she told reporters during a press conference on Friday (June 24).
They will then study the primates for health and behaviour assessment as the individuals adapt to the area.
Commenting on the current situation of gibbon conservation, Bam said while some countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam had already started their gibbon rehabilitation programmes back in the 1990s, Malaysia had yet to start a proper one.
“Right now, we do not even have a proper estimate of gibbons in the wild for Sabah and Sarawak.
“This is why we would like to bring attention to them, so there is higher awareness and more research done.
“The Borneo GReP will also involve the community there with the concept of eco-edu-tourism, so we have engaged local association Gompito to create awareness and understanding about this species,” she added.
Asked about lessons that can be learned from the Peninsular rehabilitation centre, Bam said the threat situation differs as while the pet trade in gibbons was more of a concern in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah does not face much of that issue.
“Here, in rural areas, the concerns were that some villagers still consume gibbons despite it being wildlife,” she explained, as well as the common wildlife-human conflict problems faced.
She also highlighted that they still required funding and volunteers to fully execute the project.
While RM100,000 has been pledged by German non-profit organisation Nepada Wildlife to kick-off Borneo GREP, they would need between RM10mil and RM15mil for the completion of the project at a 8ha plot of land, which can accommodate up to 30 gibbons.