Unsuccessful Reintroduction

Families and individuals that failed to become wild

Jita GroupKushta and Peemai

Between 2002 and 2013, thirty-one gibbons have been released in the KPT forest; eight families, two sub-adult males and one single adult female. Eleven wild babies have been born within the reintroduced population in these past ten years. In July 2013, 22 gibbons are living free at our reintroduction site.

Of the 31 individual gibbon reintroductions done to date – 14 (45%) are no longer living at the original release site…

@ Sixteen individual reintroduction attempts “failed”, but of these 4 individuals DID actually become wild:

– 2 gibbons (Nuan, Nat) were re-released a 2nd time some years after their 1st attempt and are now adapting successfully! These individuals are now included in the numbers for both unsuccessful releases and successful releases, dropping the total number of released gibbons who are no longer living at the release site from 16 to 14!

– 1 male (Thong) was translocated to another wild location – he was initially successfully reintroduced and lived wild at the reintroduction site for nearly 10 years. The translocation had to be done after this young male kept returning to GRP’s rehabilitation site to fight with several caged males in order to try and win a mate.

– 1 male (Tony) was recaptured after 3 years in the wild, after displaying aggressive behaviours towards humans (biting) in the forest.

@ Of the remaining 12 “failed reintroductions” attempts:

1 female (Kushta) has been released twice without adapting to the wild and is counted here as 2 separate failed attempts.

@ Six individual animals have been returned alive (without re-release as yet) to the GRP:

– 3 gibbons (Bo, Kushta and Muki) have returned from the forest voluntarily and may be too humanized and institutionalized to adjust to the wild.

– 3 gibbons (Sabai, Khun Nguen, PeeMai) have had to be returned to captivity due to illnesses, injuries and/or lack of acceptance by wild counterparts.

@ In addition five gibbons have disappeared and their faiths are unknown,

– Bird, Pompam, Bozo, Khao & Jita although two are presumed to have been poached.

Accordingly, 83% of individuals participating in the reintroduction program actually survive the process whether successfully adapting to the wild or not.

Of the eight gibbon families released in KPT by GRP, two may be classified as unsuccessful:

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2004 – POMPAM’s family

Pompam (adult female) – poached, Bird (adult male) – disappeared, Sabai (juvenile female) – returned

Yoge (infant male) – LIVING WILD

Yoge was adopted by Lek’s family in 2006 & became a pair with Hope in 2011 (see successful reintroductions)

2004 – On the 10th of December 2004 GRP released the third gibbon family in KPT forest. During the first week the adult male, Bird, exhibited some aggressive behaviours towards the human observers and had to be scared off with slingshots, but the rest of the family was adjusting well.

After little more than a week Joe, the adult male in Kip’s family (released in 2002), came to fight with Bird, causing him to flee and get lost in the forest. A few days later GRP received a phone call from some people in a local rubber plantation that there was a gibbon in their shed. Bird had made his way out of the forest and into the plantation where he, in desperate search for food, had drunk rubber from the cups on the tree trunks. A very sorry looking gibbon with bad constipation was brought back to the project to recover and a few days later Bird could be returned to his family in the forest.

Bird (1)   Pompam (2)   Sabai (3)   Yoge (4)

Bird (1), Pompam (2), Sabai (3) and Yoge (4)

2005 – Sadly Bird disappeared and was never to be seen again just a few months later, on the 21st February 2005.
The female Pompam, with the two dependant young, continued to do well and were adapting to forest life without Bird, under the watchful eyes of GRP staff and volunteers. However, tragedy struck nine months later, on the 1st of December 2005, when the staff could no longer find Pompam. Searches were immediately started as we were concerned about the safety of the Sabai and Yogi.

2006 – It was obvious that the two juveniles, Sabai and Yoge were not going to do well without parental care and on the 7th February 2006 we made a quick release of two juvenile males, Khan Ngean and Bank, who had just passed their quarantine at GRP after living semi-wild at a resort in Khao Lak for several years. We were hoping the young males might join up with the offspring of Bird and Pompam and that one of them may form a pair bond with Pompam if she was to return.

Unfortunately, Khan Ngean became ill and was returned almost immediately after the release to our Quarantine site for veterinary treatment, where he sadly died a few days later due to intestinal complications. On the 17th of February Sabai disappeared as well.

The extensive searches for Pompam throughout the entire KPT forest revealed our worst fears come true on the 17th of March 2006 – at the other side of the forest, a gibbon skull, some bones and fur was discovered. It appeared that Pompam had met her end at the hands of poachers. The day after this gruesome find, Pompam’s daughter Sabai was seen in the trees nearby the site where her dead mother was discovered. She was darted and brought back to our release site where she was put in an acclimatization cage. However, during the night the females from the Lek’s family, Lek and Dao, fought with Sabai through the cage and left her with serious wounds on her arms and hands. The following day Sabai had to be brought back to our clinic for veterinary treatment.

Although Lek accepted the juvenile male Yoge and the sub adult male Bank in her territory, and eventually as members of her family, she strongly rejected the 5 year old female Sabai. Gibbons often show territorial aggression towards adults of the same gender and GRP therefore had no choice but to make the difficult decision to keep Sabai in a cage at our Rehabilitation site.

Sabai’s storyAfter recovering from her injuries, Sabai was brought to our Rehabilitation site were she was initially housed with a older juvenile group consisting of Khun Saul, George, Champ and Lamut. However, Sabai was very dominant in this group as she had already started showing signs of sexual maturity. Attempts were therefore made to find her a partner in order for her to be re-released into the forest with her own family as soon as possible. Sadly, before any pairings had been made Sabai tragically got ill and died of pneumonia.

Meanwhile in the forest, the sub adult male Bank had formed a breeding pair with Lek, whilst Yoge became Lek’s adopted son and a playmate for her own offspring, Dao and Arun. (See successful reintroductions)

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2006 – KUSHTA’s family

Kushta (adult female) – returned, Bozo (adult male) – disappeared, Nat (infant male) – returned


 (Kushta and Nat were subsequently re-released in another family unit in 2011
 (see successful reintroductions)

Kushta is the only gibbon at GRP who has participated in 2 failed reintroduction attempts, in 2006 and 2011. Although most of her family of 2011 were also returned to captivity, the structure of her family unit and the territory they occupied in the forest has been kept up by Kushta’s “wild” mate, Arun, and her sub-adult son Nat, thus making the 2nd release difficult to classify as a complete failure.

2006 – On the 10th of March 2006 we released the fourth family, consisting of Kushta, Bozo and their infant son Nat, into KPT forest. Unfortunately, this reintroduction was almost immediately proven a failure as Bozo disappeared just two days after the release, never to be seen again. For a month Kushta and Nat remained in the forest training cage, whilst GRP staff was searching the surrounding forest for Bozo, as well as looking for Pompam and Sabai (above) who also were missing at this time. Of the three, Bozo’s faith has never become clarified. On the 12th of April 2006 Kushta and Nat were returned to our Rehabilitation site.

Bozo (1)    Kusta and Nat (2)

.Bozo; father (1), Kushta and Nat; mother and male offspring (2)

Kushta’s & Nat’s second chance (See successful reintroductions): After the failed reintroduction of 2006, Kushta and Nat remained together at our Rehabilitation site until Nat was 4 years old. In 2008 he was separated from his mother in order for her to form another pair bond and have a second chance of being released. Nat was successfully socialized with a group of juveniles consisting of Muki, Jorn and Cop and stayed with these until it became obvious that Cop and Jorn were starting to form a mature pair bond. Meanwhile, Kushta was successfully paired with a young male called Mai and she gave birth to a female infant, named Peemai, on the 1st of January 2009. Unfortunately tragedy struck again when, in May 2009, it was discovered that Mai was developing cataract and losing his sight. Mai was separated from his family and brought to our Quarantine where he became totally blind during 2011, whilst GRP was raising funds for a cataract surgery for him.

(See Mai’s story)

After this unexpected turn of events Kushta and Peemai were reintroduced to Kushta’s older son Nat and his new playmate Muki. Kushta readily accepted both of them and although the males were only sub-adults she mated with Muki and was pregnant with his baby when they were brought into the forest training cage in January 2011.

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2011 – KUSHTA’s 2nd family’s release

Kushta (adult female) – returned, Muki (sub adult male) – returned

Nat (sub-adult son) – LIVING WILD, PeeMai (juvenile daughter) – returned

2011 – Sadly, this reintroduction did not go to plan either. Wild male Arun (released 2003) turned up to claim Kushta as his mate, banishing Kushta’s juvenile daughter PeeMai as he did so. PeeMai was the first member of this family to be returned to the GRP. Her separation from her family was necessary in order to save her life as Arun was being increasingly aggressive towards her.

2012 – Kushta and Muki start returning to human surroundings by autumn 2012 and are being returned to their family in the forest by GRP staff several times.

2013 –  By January 2013 it was decided that both Kushta and Muki had failed their reintroduction attempt as they kept returning by their own steam to beg from tourists by Bang Pae waterfall.

Nat and Arun have since been joined by adult female Nuan (released initially 2007, then 2013) and the 3 of them are maintaining and defending the territory Kushta left behind!

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Individuals that failed to become wild, got lost or had to be recaptured for various reasons

The gibbons that arrive at GRP come from a variety of backgrounds, but every one of them have been taken from the wild when they were infants and kept by humans as pets or for the entertainment of tourists. The only way to acquire a baby gibbon is for the poachers to go into the forest and shoot a gibbon female that is carrying a small infant. The dead mother falls to the ground with her infant still clinging to her belly and during this ordeal some babies suffer injuries that may even be fatal. For every single gibbon that makes it into the pet trade, around 10 wild gibbons have died.

All gibbons that arrive at GRP are orphans, taken brutally from the wild as infants. The traumatic early life experience may naturally cause psychological traumas for the individuals. Sometimes it is impossible to evaluate the psychological state of an animal whilst they are in a cage and it is only after release into the wild that you can see the long-term consequences of their past experiences with humans.

Kushta – Returned, 2013. Kushta’s second chance to return to the forest also became a failure when the female chose to return to beg from tourist at Bang Pae waterfall several times between Oct-12 and Jan-13. Kushta died at GRP on the 13th of July 2013 after a short illness.

Muki – Returned, 2013. Muki followed Kushta’s example and returned to beg from tourists on several occasions between Oct-12 and Jan-13.

Tony – Wild for 3 years. Returned, 2012. Tony was released in 2009 as the adult male in Jita’s family (Now Hope’s family).  During his three years in the forest Tony bit 12 people, including tourists, GRP staff and volunteers and in October 2012 he managed to bite 6 tourists in just a few weeks. Due to this continuous aggressive behaviour towards humans Tony was recaptured and brought back to the GRP.

Thong –  Wild for 10 years. RECAPTURED AND TRANSLOCATED, 2012. Thong was released as a juvenile in Kip’s family in 2002. After almost ten years in the wild, Thong’s search for a mate brought him to our Rehabilitation Site where he fought with several males through the mesh of their cages. In September 2012 Thong was captured and translocatedto a forest in Chiang Mai in the hope he may bond with a semi-wild female there. (See Kip’s family)

Jita – Disappeared, faith unknown, 2011. Jita was the adult female in the family released in 2009, and the mate of Tony (above). She suddenly disappeared in 2011, after one year and four months in the wild and her faith remains unknown.

Nuan – Returned, 2008. Nuan is the adult female in the family released in 2007. In 2008, Nuan was injured in a fight with another reintroduced female called Dao (released as a juvenile in 2003) and had to be returned to the project for veterinary treatment. Dao subsequently formed a pair with Nuan’s son Payu (See Successful reintroductions, 2007)

Khao – Poached(?), 2008. Khao was the adult male in the family released in 2007 and the mate of Nuan (above). He suddenly disappeared after over a year in the forest and shortly afterwards the hand of a gibbon of Khao’s colour was reported in a local market.

Nat – Returned, 2006. Nat was the infant son in the unsuccessful release of Kushta’s family described above. Subsequently, Nat and his mother were re-released successfully in another group combination in 2011 (See Successful reintroductions, 2011).

Kushta – Returned, 2006. As above.

Bozo – Disappeared, faith unknown, 2006.  As above

Khan Ngean – Returned, 2006. Sub-adult males Khan Ngean and Bank were released together in 2006, as the only non-family reintroduction done by GRP in the past ten years. For full story see Pompam’s family above.

Sabai – Returned, 2006. See Pompam’s family above.

Pompam – Poached, 2006. See Pompam’s family above.

Bird – Disappeared, faith unknown, 2005. See Pompam’s family above.

Bo – Returned to Rehabilitation, 2005. Bo was released in 2003 as the adult male in Lek’s family. It soon became apparent that he was too institutionalized to adapt to the wild after her returned to our Rehabilitation Site by himself no less than seven times. (See successful reintroductions; Lek’s family)

Thong   Bo:Father   Khao   Nuan

Thong, Bo, Khao, Nuan (above pictures)

Tony    Jita

Tony and Jita