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Save the Gibbons in Myanmar

When it comes to threats facing wildlife, the first ones that come to mind are poaching, habitat loss and climate change – not a new electric powerline. But for a small population of white-handed gibbons in Myanmar, a project to bring electricity to some of the country’s most remote villages could very well spell their end.

White-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar) are small apes found in tropical rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and of course, Myanmar. They are diurnal (active during the day) and spend most of their time swinging through the forest canopy in search of fruit, leaves and flowers to eat; rarely coming down to the ground.

The gibbons are also among the most endangered, mainly from deforestation and, to a lesser degree, hunting for the illegal wildlife trade. However, in a remote rural village in the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape (DTL) on the Myanmar-Thai border, the local people have lived in peace with the gibbons for decades, never hunting them and even telling stories of gibbons warning them of attacking armies in times of war. It’s therefore no surprise when the villagers became very concerned when gibbons started swinging from a powerline that was recently built in the area.

The Myanmar government has begun building new powerlines in an effort to bring electricity to remote areas. However the wires are not insulated, meaning that animals risk being electrocuted if they touched the wires, which at the moment, are not electrified. But they will soon be and if left uninsulated, a large number of gibbons could be killed. As the gibbon population in the area is estimated to be only 50, this could seriously threaten the survival of the white handed gibbon in the DTL.

WWF recently completed a US$28,000 project in collaboration with villagers and the local electric cable company to complete a 1.6 kilometre-long insulation project in one of the villages in the DTL. But new powerlines are threatening gibbons all over Myanmar. We hope to use this village as a model of how to supply electricity to people who desperately need it without endangering threatened wildlife. We need to raise more money to replicate this project in other villages and that’s where you come in.

Your donation on our gibbon crowdfunding page will go toward providing insulation for powerlines in gibbon territory, trimming trees to make powerlines less accessible to gibbons and training local conservationists to monitor their progress. So please donate today. The people of the DTL have lived alongside white-handed gibbons for decades and with your donation, they can continue to do so for decades to come.


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