KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — Stains resembling blood were sighted after the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) captured and removed two gibbons in a second raid today at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GReP) in Pahang, the Gibbon Conservation Society (GCS) running the rehab centre said.
Just two days ago, on December 29, Perhilitan was reported to have forcibly removed four out of six gibbons undergoing rehabilitation at GReP, despite an ongoing and still unsettled court dispute on whether Perhilitan or its former employee Mariani Ramli — GReP founder and GCS president — should be the ones caring for the six gibbons.
Today, Perhilitan was said to have removed the remaining two gibbons — Bella and Chantiq — from the gibbon sanctuary in Pahang.
According to GCS’ statement in a Facebook post this afternoon, none of GCS’ team was allowed to witness or record how Perhilitan captured or handled Bella and Chantiq, with the non-profit organisation also voicing its worries over whether Chantiq was injured or even dead.
“We did not even get a chance to take photos of them in the cages as they carried them out. Perhilitan carried them through the bushes and distracted our team deliberately so we could not see the state the gibbons were in.
“Afterwards, we found what looks like bloodstains around Chantiq’s enclosure and on her furniture in the higher levels of her enclosure (her favourite yellow hanging basket, her bamboo pole and on the soil below),” GCS said, showing photos of the red stains mentioned.
“Is Chantiq hurt? How badly? What has happened to Bella and Chantiq? IS CHANTIQ STILL ALIVE? We are extremely concerned about Chantiq now. When we asked the Perhilitan officers they said it was fruit stains,” GCS added.
GCS’ statement implied that they were allegedly stopped by Perhilitan from going into their own gibbon rehabilitation centre, which they claimed prevented any witnesses or evidence being recorded of the removal of the two gibbons.
“We do not know where Perhilitan is taking them or what they are going to do to them,” GCS said, before going on to demand transparency and for Perhilitan to provide public video evidence of the current status of the six gibbons that have been removed.
The four gibbons that were previously removed by Perhilitan on December 29 are Daru, Daly, Betsy and Lola.
Since the removal of the four gibbons, GCS had posted information on how the Perhilitan raid had affected the wellbeing of the gibbons.
In the GReP, GCS cares for gibbons who are rescued orphans who have lost their families and rehabilitates them to prepare them for release back to the wild.
For Betsy and Lola, GCS yesterday said the two gibbons which had formed a surrogate sister relationship were inseparable, adding that Betsy had went into the cage to comfort Lola who was very scared and sad after being caught by Perhilitan, also asking: “Will Perhilitan even keep them together?”
As for Daru who was among the first four removed by Perhilitan, GCS yesterday highlighted that he and fellow gibbon Elsa are the first and most potential pair to mate, but noted how the duo’s separation due to the raid had resulted in Daru showing signs of intense stress and Elsa showing signs of depression and fear.
As for Bella, GCS had yesterday highlighted that any removal of the gibbon by Perhilitan from the gibbon rehabilitation centre would mean that she would be separated from another female gibbon, Ebony. GCS said that they had just managed to pair the two as surrogate sisters.
The Malaysian Primatological Society yesterday in a lengthy Facebook post explained how important it is for rescued gibbons undergoing rehabilitation to form a pair as a female and male and to have mated to ensure their survival and welfare when released to the wild.
It also stressed the rehabilitation process could be disrupted with the separation of gibbons from their trained surrogate caretakers and other gibbons with whom they have already begun to form bonds.
Following the first raid on December 29, GCS had shared letters of support from international groups, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Section on Small Apes (IUCN SSA) which had urged for the gibbons to remain with GReP and commending Mariani an accomplished primatologist specialising in rehabilitation and the only Malaysian certified by the IUCN SSA “for instigating successful rescue and rehabilitation of gibbons and siamang”.
“The gibbons should not be removed from GReP given how far they have come in their rehabilitation and removing them suddenly will cause psychological trauma, behavioural changes and will certainly diminish the chances of these gibbons successfully returning to the wild,” IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group Section on Small Apes (SSA) vice-chair Susan M. Cheyne had said in the December 28 letter.
At the time of writing, close to 5,000 persons have already signed an online petition on Change.org started about two days ago, demanding the return of the four gibbons and also urging for Perhilitan to not seize the two other gibbons Bella and Chantiq to enable all six to continue their rehabilitation without interruption.
“Remember, the GReP is a National project and it belongs to us, Malaysians. If we don't stand together now, we might not be able to save our gibbons,” the petition read.
News portal Malaysiakini had on December 29 also reported Perhilitan officials as saying that the government department was acting in line with the Court of Appeal’s decision in a dispute between the government department and Mariani.
Malaysiakini had then reported Perhilitan enforcement director Pazil Abdul Patah as saying that the six gibbons belong to the department as Mariani had rescued the animals while working for the department, and that Perhilitan has the expertise to rehabilitate the gibbons and will do so.
Mariani and her lawyer Jessica Binwani have however reportedly highlighted that they are still pursuing an appeal at the Federal Court, and that Perhilitan should not have removed the gibbons pending a final decision at the court to enable the status quo for the gibbons to be preserved.