Local Chiang Mai Village and Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project Team Up to Protect Local Primate Population

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In an effort to save the dwindling primate population in and around the village of Mae On, the Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project and local villagers have teamed up to form the Primate Habitat Restoration Project. Volunteers and employees of Flight of the Gibbon will plant 1500 fruit trees in a designated, protected habitat area and will act as a refuge and a food source for the primates. The inaugural planting will be on Sunday, July 11, 2008.

With the primate population in this area declining, people are looking for answers. Shortages of food in the mountains, clashes with local villagers, and encroachment from villages are all possibilities. Thailand-based Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project is working with monks at the local temple and the forest service to do outreach and education about protecting the primates. In addition, Nichar Gregory of the University of East Anglia is starting a primate population study to count the primates and identify the reasons for the population decline.

Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project is working closely with Dr. Stephen Elliot, an expert on tropical forest restoration, and the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) of the Biology Department at Chiang Mai University to properly carry out the habitat restoration. The Primate Habitat Restoration Project have grown 3000 saplings in anticipation of this event. The first 1500 will be planted on sunday, and the rest will be planted as some of the originals die, which is a natural reforestation process. In addition, two weeks after the planting, specialists from FORRU will measure the saplings to gauge their success. Next April, villagers have agreed to build firebreak to protect the young trees. All groups involved; the villagers, the temple, the Forest Service, and the Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project will continue to monitor the reforestation progress throughout the year.

In the beginning of July this year, Dr. Elliot and the Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project worked together on another forest restoration project near the village of Mae Kompong. They planted 500 trees of 9 different species in an effort to restore deforested and overused land. Mae Kompong is a mountain village about 1 hour east of Chiang Mai and is the headquarters for Flight of the Gibbon Adventure Tour. They run an eco-friendly canopy tour through old-growth climax forest adjacent to national park land. They started the Flight of the Gibbon Conservation Project as an opportunity to give back to the communities they work in and to educate the foreigners who come to Thailand about conservation and restoration.

Mae On is located 30 minutes east of the City of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The village is known for Crazy Horse Buttress, a popular climbing destination, the beautiful cave Tam Muang On, and a natural, public hot spring.

Directions
The planting site is at Muang Cave in Mae On. To get there, highway 1317 from Chiang Mai. After 28km, turn left on Tam Mae On Rd where you will see a large, green sign that says Muang Cave. Follow this road, eventually curving left and up a hill, until you reach the end which is the meeting point.

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Nichar Gregory

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