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Opinion: Born to be wild



PHUKET: The report of gibbons reproducing naturally in the wild in Phuket comes as rare good news for an island that has suffered much environmental degradation in recent decades. Hopefully this discovery can serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving what remains of our once natural ecosystems.

Baby gibbons rank right up there in the Anthropomorphic Hall of Fame with pandas, koalas and dolphins for perceived ‘cuteness’ among us humans. Unfortunately, their high cuddleability quotient is actually their curse, making them popular with tourists and touts who illegally use them as photo props, often in full view of law enforcement officials.

The dynamics of the illegal trade in protected species is well-understood and the entire system is driven by ignorant tourists who are completely unaware of just how inhumanely these animals are acquired, treated, and, in the end, disposed of once they reach adulthood.

The Phuket Gazette applauds the work of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand (WARF), the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), and all other organizations that do so much to treat or rehabilitate animals who have fallen victim to the tourist tout trade, as well as to raise awareness about just how wrong the entire practice is from every standpoint.

Fortunately, at least in this regard, we are living in a time when those who innocently have their pictures taken with these animals can be quickly and collectively shamed in the social media, as was the case with former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova. To her credit, Ms Glebova was quick to admit her error and then use her considerable media clout to try to teach others the same lesson she had to learn the hard way.

The gibbon discovery comes at an interesting time, given that the government recently approved construction of a new, and seemingly needless, 12-lane artery connecting Mai Khao with Koh Kaew. While the proposed route of the 15-billion-baht thoroughfare should not directly affect the Khao Phra Thaew ‘non-hunting area’ where the gibbons live, the project will nevertheless have huge environmental impacts along its entire 22-kilometer length.

Anyone who commutes daily along Thepkrasattri Road in Koh Kaew will acknowledge the need for relief, but one can only hope this project will be exposed for the overkill that it is, and that a suitably scaled down version of it can be implemented in a more environmentally friendly way than many of the other road-building projects now underway across the southern region.


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