As part of an ambitious rewilding project in the forest surrounding the iconic Angkor Wat, a pair of endangered pileated gibbons were released yesterday by the Apsara Authority, the Forestry Administration and conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance.
This is the third pair of pileated gibbons that have been successfully released into the forest since the project started in 2013.
Cambodia is the world’s stronghold for the pileated gibbon, but habitat destruction and capture for the illegal wildlife trade continues to jeopardise the species which has now been listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.
Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, mainland Southeast Asia’s last unfragmented rainforest and under the protection of Wildlife Alliance and Ministry of Environment rangers, holds the largest-known population of pileated gibbons.
Nick Marx, Wildlife Alliance’s Director of Wildlife Rescue & Care, said: “There are very few forests in Cambodia which offer such high level of protection for wildlife. The forests surrounding Angkor Wat are a perfect habitat and offer a much-needed safe haven for this persecuted species.”
Poachers shoot adult gibbons for their meat and sell their offspring for illegal wildlife trade as pets.
Since their establishment, Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team has saved around 70,000 animals from Cambodia’s illegal wildlife trade.
The NGO has also released smooth-coated otters, Indian muntjac, common palm civets, and silvered langurs into the forest around the temples of Angkor as part of the project.
“So far, our project to restore wildlife to Angkor has proceeded very well and cooperation with the Apsara and FA has been excellent. Our aim is to continue this collaboration and release further appropriate species in the future.”
Wildlife Alliance and the Apsara will continue to monitor the gibbons to ensure they thrive in their new home.
Chou Radyna, a deputy director of Forest Management, Culture and Environment Department of the Apsara Authority, has been cooperating with the Forestry Administration and Wildlife Alliance since 2013, to release a variety of wildlife in the Angkor forest, including gibbons.
He said before releasing the gibbons into the wild, there is a team dedicated to health and safety monitoring of the species.