Image Source: Reuters
Populations of the silver-haired primates, also known as “Javan gibbons” or “owa Jawa” in the local language, are in decline due to illicit wildlife trafficking and deforestation in the region. Using a primitive pulley system, Tini Kasmawati hoists a bucket of bananas into the canopy of an Indonesian jungle, where she sells them. An orphaned young gibbon clings to the bosom of a silvery gibbon as it swings among the trees and takes many of the nuts.
Tini, 49, has been on a self-funded quest to care for endangered species that are endemic to the rainforests of West Java for over eight years. She spends at least two hours a day with the animals, which she has done for nearly eight years.
Populations of the silver-haired primates, also known as “Javan gibbons” or “owa Jawa” in the local language, are in decline due to illicit wildlife trafficking and deforestation in the region. According to Protection International, there are only around 4,000 of them left in the wild, with just approximately 24 of them in this region, according to a local animal conservation organization.
Tini was embarrassed by her lack of knowledge of gibbons when she met a Dutch student who had traveled to the tropical island to research them in 2014. That compelled her to take care of at least six of the animals, whom she has grown to consider as members of her extended family. During an interview, Tini expressed her gratitude for doing what she loves. “It’s an honor to be able to do this; there aren’t many people out there that want or can do this,” she remarked.
Although Budiharto, an animal welfare activist who runs the Cikananga Wildlife Center, monitors endangered species in West Java province, believes Tini’s work has made little difference to gibbon populations, he believes Tini has contributed to the primate’s well-being by providing them with much-needed food. However, despite efforts to turn Lengkong woodland into a protected area, the destiny of these scrunch-faced monkeys remains uncertain due to inbreeding, according to Budiharto. “They are in danger of extinction,” he added.
Tini believes that her effort will aid in conserving the surviving gibbons and the education of the general public about them. “If God wills it, I will not stop walking as long as I am able,” she said emphatically.