LETTER | What happened at the gibbon centre

Gibbon Conservation Society


LETTER | The Gibbon Conservation Society (GCS) would like to respond to the recent statement by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) regarding the events that took place at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (Grep) site between Dec 29 and 31 last year, especially with regard to the judicial review proceedings suit filed by GCS president Mariani Ramli.

On Dec 28, 2017, Mariani in her individual capacity filed a civil suit against five defendants namely:

  1. Disciplinary Board for the Support Group (Perhilitan) 
  2. Public Services Disciplinary Appeal Board
  3. Public Services Commission
  4. Perhilitan director-general
  5. Natural resources and environment minister

The suit was to challenge three decisions:

  • Termination of her employment as a wildlife ranger;
  • Rejection of her appeal against the decision to terminate her employment; and
  • The cancellation/revocation of the permit granted to Mariani under Section 50 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to care for six gibbons (Daru, Daly, Betsy, Lola, Bella and Chantiq) and a dusky leaf monkey by the Perhilitan director-general.

On Jan 29, 2018, the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted a stay of the three decisions pending the determination of the High Court case. 

On July 10, 2019, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found in favour of Mariani and set aside all three decisions, and reinstated Mariani to her former position as a wildlife ranger with Perhilitan, and ordered the defendants to pay her back wages from October 2016 until the date she is reinstated. The defendants were also asked to pay costs of RM6,000.

In the meantime, the defendants through the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard on Nov 16, 2020, where the following was held by the Court of Appeal:

  • The appeal filed was allowed; 
  • The order of the Kuala Lumpur High Court dated July 10, 2019, was set aside;
  • Costs of RM6,000 to be paid to the appellants;
  • An interim stay of the decision of the Court of Appeal was not allowed; and
  • A formal application for the stay of the Court of Appeal’s decision to be filed in court.

The order of the Court of Appeal does not mention the removal of the gibbons from the Grep site, nor does it concern the department’s rejection of her subsequent applications for a permit, as alluded by Perhilitan in its statement dated Jan 8, 2021.

Mariani then filed an application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court on Dec 14, 2020, and served all documents on the AGC the same day. The Federal Court has set case management on Jan 14.

At the same time, Mariani also filed a formal application for the stay of the decision of the Court of Appeal and the return of all six gibbons back to Grep on Dec 31, 2020. The Court of Appeal fixed the hearing of this application for Jan 14.

The above is to clarify that the court case is essentially about Mariani’s termination as a wildlife ranger with Perhilitan, and the subsequent withdrawal of permission to care for the six gibbons. We cannot comment on the merits of the case or the stay application as both are currently before the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, out of respect for the court process.

In response to Perhilitan’s statement that we have no permit, since 2017 we have been applying for a permit from the department. Our applications have consistently been rejected on the grounds that the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 does not have any provisions for rehabilitation. 

We do understand and acknowledge this fact. However, what we have requested is for a permit for conservation work under the 2010 Act as this is nothing new in Malaysia given how a few individuals have successfully applied for this permit and proceeded with their conservation work.

We would like to add that all the gibbons undergoing rehabilitation within Grep were either confiscated from individual owners and came to Grep through Perhilitan or were surrendered to Grep by owners, after which we informed Perhilitan. 

Perhilitan had done health checks on every arrival and microchipped those above 2.5kg (based on our standard operating procedure). Audits have also been conducted on Grep and we have never received negative feedback.

We also would like to place on record that on Nov 25, 2020, we again applied for a "Permit Khas Bagi Primat Spesies Ungka untuk ditempatkan di Pusat Konservasi Ungka di Lenggong Perak" under Section 11 (a), (d) dan (e) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (716). To date, we have not heard back from Perhilitan.

GIBBON CONSERVATION SOCIETY (GCS) is an NGO dedicated to protecting and conserving gibbons and other primates.

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