Saving endandered Javan primates
"It is not alarmist to talk of possible extinction. But if we act now, act fast, there's a real chance we can save them. We know what needs to be done. We just need to make it happen" Damian Aspinall, Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation
In January 2013 The Aspinall Foundation returned 6 Javan langurs and a Javan gibbon from Port Lympne Wild Animal Park Back to the Wild in Java.
Java Primate Project - The Cry of the Wild
The tropical rainforests of Java used to be filled with the haunting sound of gibbons singing to one another. Now these forests are shrinking in size and stand eerily quiet.
On December 11th 2009 The Aspinall Foundation signed the Memorandum Of Understanding that launched a new project to save the endangered Javan Gibbon (Hylobates moloch) - also known as Moloch or Silvery Gibbon. These primates are unique to the Indonesian island of Java, where it is estimated that less than 2,000 remain. With no population group containing more than 100 individuals, they are currently the most endangered of all the gibbon species. The main threats to this species are from sale in the illegal pet trade (young animals are hounded using dogs), hunting for food & medicine, and deforestation.
At present there are only around 50 captive Javan Gibbons outside of Indonesia, held at ten zoos around the world. While these zoos are cooperating in a captive breeding programme, only a few pairs are breeding successfully.
Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks together hold half of the world's total captive population - currently housing 11 males and 13 females between the two parks. With 24 viable births since 1988, we are the world's most successful breeder of this species.
This is one of the locally designed net and bamboo cages at our East Java Primate Project where we are housing confiscated East Javan Langurs prior to their release back into a protected area.
West Java Primate Rescue Centre
The Aspinall Foundation is building on its successful in-situ rescue and breeding programme in Africa, by setting up this new project in West Java for gibbons and other Indonesian primates that have been rescued or confiscated from the illegal pet trade by government officials.
4 Javan langurs were moved by our specialist team to the new Java centre in June 2011. During Summer 2011 the first 6 Javan gibbons were rescued, this was followed in 2012 by a further 6 Javan gibbons which brings the total Javan gibbons now in our protection and being rehabilitated to 12.
After spending time in quarantine the Javan gibbons were moved out into their large open topped enclosures. The large bamboo structures in the purpose built open topped enclosures provide the gibbons with room to swing and jump, as well as somewhere to shelter from the sun or rain. Time has been spent on developing the right diet for each animal we are caring for with a wide range of tropical fruits and leaves. It could take more than 3 years of care at our centre before the gibbons could be considered ready for being released back into the forests. The forests we are protecting is home to many more species who can now thrive with our support.
In March 20012 we started pairing suitable Javan gibbons together, as the first step in a breeding and reintroduction programme. In addition to this a pre-release habitat study was conducted in two areas. One of these Mt. Tilu Nature Reserve is a good potential site for the future release of gibbons and langurs. A tea plantation company is located in this area who are committed to managing and protrecting the surronding forest.
In the longer term, we hope to set up a permanent research facility within one of the few remaining Javan gibbon habitats in order to study wild gibbon behaviour and to improve reintroduction strategies and to begin a reintroduction programme to return these rescued and rehabilitated gibbons into protected forest areas.
East Javan langur rehabilitation and reintroduction centre
The Aspinall Foundation has also established a second rescue centre in Malang, East Java for the East Javan langurs. The site is small, at 3-4 hectares but situated in an excellent area with plenty of natural water and food supplies, 2km from the release site with road access all around. The future for releasing the langurs here is excellent and the repatriation from the Kent wild animal parks should be straight forward, planned for 2012.
Three surveys to assess community opinion, food viability and analysis of current wild population & bio-diversity were completed successfully and building work was completed in the summer of 2012.
The East Java Primate Rescue Centre initially confiscated 18 Javan langurs and on Saturday 15th September 13 of these langurs’ were released into a 2000 hectare band of forest in the surrounding the centre. This forest is also an important watershed for the city of Malang.
Amos Courage, Overseas Project Director, The Aspinall Foundation commented: ‘These langurs have been held in captivity in cramped and unsuitable conditions for up to nine years each, after they were taken from the forest to supply the demand for primates as pets. Thanks to the work of our team in Indonesia in collaboration with local communities, forestry commissions and the Indonesian Government, these primates will have a second chance of life in the wild.’
The Java Primate Project team’s work is far from over as they will now be tracking and monitoring the langurs every day for an entire year, whilst local guides and forest rangers will be employed to patrol the release site.
There are now 5 Javan langurs remaining at the centre.
Head over to the Javan Primates Conservation Project Facebook page for all the latest news and pictures.