Gibbons to Be Reintroduced to Angkor Forest

A pair of endangered pileated gibbons will be released today into the forest in the Angkor Archaeological Park, the beginning of a project that could see the resettlement of many other animals that had been extirpated from the area, wildlife experts said.

“We are hoping that if all goes well with the gibbons, this could be the start of reintroducing other species that used to live there and are appropriate,” said Nick Marx, rescue and care program director of Wildlife Alliance, which heads the resettlement project together with the Apsara Authority—responsible for managing the World Heritage Site—and the Forestry Administration.

“These are first small steps for what could be a very relevant project, in such an important place in the country,” Mr. Marx said, adding that a second pair of mature gibbons could be released within several months.

Other species of monkeys, small predators and possibly even bears could follow, he said.

The two gibbons, which have reached reproductive age, were born in Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center. As they were raised by their own mothers, they have developed relatively natural simian behavior, unlike small gibbons rescued from wildlife traffickers.

“These two are more wary of people because they grew up naturally with their mothers and now they are young adults and a great fit for the wild,” Mr. Marx said.

For more than a decade, many species of wildlife have been hunted inside the park, but better management of the forest and laws that prohibit hunting have made it possible to reintroduce gibbons, Im Sokrithy, spokesperson for the Apsara Authority, said.

“They used to live in the Angkor forest and now we want to take them back because there is good management and a general awareness of local people…. It’s a safe place now where it’s secure for the gibbons and there is no hunting at all,” Mr. Sokrithy said.

The gibbons have been living in an enclosure inside the forest for about six months, giving them the chance to adapt to their new home before the enclosure’s gate was opened this morning and they were released. Three staffers will be assigned monitor the gibbons in the future.

“We will watch how well they are doing and how they adapt to nature, because they used to live by feeding, so it’s hard for them,” Mr. Sokrithy said.

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