A world without gibbons


London to Ho Chi Minh by Train (and boat!). Day 73

I love Gibbons. It’s true. Their amazing call, the way they zoom effortlessly through the branches, the fact that they pair up for life… these ‘lesser’ apes are absolutely precious.

Yesterday we visited a primate rescue center in a national park that Ho Chi Minh personally set up to protect the beautiful forested peaks and the wildlife they support. Most of the monkeys, gibbons and loris at the center have been rescued from the illegal pet, meat and medicine trade.

This young lady was happily hanging out in the semi-wild enclosure, and it was such an honor to watch her there. Gibbons and many of the animals they have here are extremely endangered. Only around 60 Golden-headed Langur exist in the whole world (no wonder we failed to spot them on Cat Ba Island). Vietnam has around three wild tigers remaining, and their last Javan Rhino died in 2011. There are none in captivity and only a small population remain on Java (which is seriously threatened by ever-growing palm oil plantations).

The main threat to Vietnam’s wildlife has been destruction of habitat for livestock, other agriculture and expanding human populations. Poaching for food or trade has also taken its toll, and with climate change becoming more of a reality every day, the challenges may be only just beginning.

Even today, many of the primates at the center will never be released into the wild simply because safe habitats no longer exist. Many of these beautiful creatures have lived on this earth far longer than we have. They are not naturally going extinct. They are being destroyed. By us.

We must tackle climate change at its roots. This means making tangible and sometimes difficult changes to policy, the economy and our own behavior. At the same time, in every country in the world, we need to do everything we can to reestablish the incredible wilderness that once stretched across the whole planet. Go vegan. Don’t buy products with palm oil. Advocate for action on climate change.

Then, just maybe, this special lady and her descendants might stand a chance. After all, who wants to live in a world without gibbons?

Next Stop: Hoi An — at Cuc Phuong National Park.

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