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A pileated gibbon hangs in a tree after being released from its enclosure into the wild yesterday in Siem Reap
A pileated gibbon hangs in a tree after being released from its enclosure into the wild yesterday in Siem Reap. A recent count recorded only 450 to 500 pileated gibbons in Cambodia. Koam Chanrasmey

Gibbons return to Angkor

Two endangered pileated gibbons – touted as future parents to a new generation in the wild – were yesterday released into forest surrounding the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap.

The sound of the two gibbons’ cries had resonated from an enclosure in the forest at various times since June, but yesterday marked the moment when the barrier between captivity and the wild
was removed.

“The pair of gibbons was raised at Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Centre [PTWRC] and has since been living in a rehabilitation enclosure [in the forest] with limited human presence,” said Nina Chang Samean, a department director at Apsara, the body that manages the temple area.

The returning of gibbons to the forest is part of what will be a bigger wildlife release project – conducted by Apsara, the Forestry Administration and Wildlife Alliance – in the Angkor archaeological park, Samean said.

“They will live in this forest together and create a new generation,” Samean said, adding that a second pair could be released within several months.

Ung Sam Ath, deputy director general of the Forestry Administration, said studies showed that the pileated gibbons had been decimated by the illegal wildlife trade and destruction of their habitats, especially between 1985 and 1990.

“Recently, there have been only 450 to 500 pileated gibbons recorded as living in Cambodia,” he said.

Apsara director Bun Narith said the gibbons would attract even more visitors to Cambodia’s most popular tourist site.

“The sound of the pileated gibbon is back at Angkor,” he said. “Everything we have lost over so many decades is coming back, and it will surely play a part in attracting tourists.”

Narith appealed to authorities and villagers in the area to work together to protect the endangered species.

Male pileated gibbons have black fur, while females’ fur is white, grey and black.

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