Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Gibbons in need of better digs

Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post/Bogor

Five Javan gibbons, known locally known as Owa Jawa, and a gibbon from Kalimantan, known as a Owa Agilis, are in need of a new home.

The primates are currently being kept in separate, small cages at the Owa Jawa Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Nanggerang village, Cicurug, Sukabumi regency, a few hours drive from Jakarta.

"They need large enclosures that would enable them to interact with each other," the center's coordinator, Ida Yuniati Masnur, told The Jakarta Post recently.

The Javan gibbons -- 13-year-old Yuki; Jefri, 7; Nancy, 6; Kis-kis, 4; Moli, 3 -- and the two-year-old Owa Agilis Kiddy are being prepared for a return to the wild after being rescued from private homes where they were kept as pets.

The center lies on 2.5 hectares of land that it rents from agro-tourism firm PT Pengembangan Agrowisata Prima on a year-to- year basis.

"The land owner doesn't want us to rent the site for a longer term because they want to make it available to interested buyers. We're trying to talk PT Pengembangan into letting us continue renting the land into the future," Ida said.

She said, however, that as a state facility, the center should have its own site with better security to avoid people approaching the primates' cages.

According to experts, primates need spacious enclosures with conditions as close as possible to their natural habitat.

"What we have now is only adequate for a quarantine, not a rehabilitation center, which ideally should be on 20 hectares of land," she said.

Ida said the Bogor Office for Natural Resources Conservation and the management of the Pangrango Mountain National Park had offered to find a more suitable location for the center.

In an attempt to raise awareness about the plight of the endangered Javan gibbon -- there are only about 2,000 of them left in the wild -- Ida said she would introduce an Owa Jawa adoption program.

"People can get involved in the rehabilitation project until the gibbons are ready to be returned to the forest by providing cages or food," she said.

The center currently relies on donation from the Silvery Gibbon Project based in Perth, Australia.

"The donors come here almost every year just to check on the condition of the primates," she said.