Gibbon Conservation Society
Gibbon Conservation Society or GCS is a Malaysian NGO founded on 22nd February 2020. We were formerly known as the Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia (GPSM) and have been running since 2016.
Our main purpose is to support the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project or GReP. Through this project we rescue and rehabilitate gibbons who were victims of the illegal pet trade. Rehabilitation is not an easy process, most gibbons require at least 5-10 years of rehab, and depending on their age and history, each gibbon needs to learn and overcome different things, as many are left traumatised by their experiences as pets. We help each individual move forward, relearn their natural behaviours and prepare them for life in the wild.
Our goal is to educate the public about the threats that gibbons face in Malaysia due to human activities, and the implications of gibbon extinction. We support vital conservation research on primates and their habitats, and promote environmental education and awareness about the importance of primates within the Malaysian ecosystem. Most importantly, we aim to combat the growing illegal wildlife trade by assisting the local law enforcement agencies.
How it all started
In early 2013, Mariani Ramli, better known as Bam, found herself caring for a 5 month old Agile Gibbon named Ellek. Ellek had just been rescued by the wildlife department from his ‘owner’ on the east coast of Malaysia, after being kept as a pet for several months.
Falling in love with him instantly, Bam, an employee of the national wildlife department at the time, volunteered to care for Ellek. With no prior experience, training or knowledge, Bam treated him like a human child, even dressing him in clothes occasionally.
Over time Bam begin to realise that treating him like a human or a pet wasn’t good for him. He seemed depressed in her small Kuala Lumpur apartment. Determined to make him happy, she enrolled herself in university to study animal biology and read everything she could about his species. She even travelled around Asia to several gibbon rehabilitation centres to learn how to care for him.
Yet despite her best efforts, Ellek would never be returned to the wild. After only a year with Bam, Ellek died of a bacterial infection he caught from having contact with the ground.
Devastated, Bam refused to have anything to do with gibbons anymore. But a phone call from a colleague in August 2014 changed that.
Bam accompanied her colleague to rescue another male gibbon, this time a Lar Gibbon from central Peninsular, with the intention of only advising. But the moment her eyes met his, her decision was made. She named him Daru and the rest, as they say, is history…
Through her studies, Bam discovered that Ellek’s death was not an uncommon end for primates who are kept as pets. Across Malaysia and in many parts of the world, gibbons and other wildlife were dying in the hands of humans. Improper care and inappropriate diets were killing them. They just did not belong in the urban world with us.
Faced with this knowledge and the haunting memory of Ellek, Bam knew she could not sit by and let this happen any longer. She created the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GReP) and the Gibbon Conservation Society, to protect, conserve and rehabilitate these animals.
Today, Bam and her team care for 10 White-Handed Gibbons at a centre in rural Pahang. It is her hope and ours, that these gibbons (Ebony, Chinta, Rangga, Dexter, Embun, Coley, Darling, Mojo, Ud, and Bobo) get to return to their true home – the tropical forest of Malaysia. As of 2022, we have started our second rehabilitation project, known as the Borneo Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (Borneo GReP) in Kota Belud, Sabah to rehabilitate the gibbon species of Sabah and Sarawak.