Officials Open Cardboard Box And Find Saddest Surprise
He was just a baby.
Gibbons stay with their families for years - unless something happens to tear them apart.
So when government officials in Laos opened up a cardboard box and found a small northern white-cheeked gibbon all alone, they knew something terrible had happened.
It's likely the little gibbon's family had been killed.
The officials seized the gibbon from traffickers who were trying to sell the little orphan as a pet and called the exact right people - wildlife rescuers from the Laos Wildlife Rescue Center (LWRC) rushed to bring the terrified gibbon to safety. They had to travel hundreds of miles to retrieve him.
The officials, meanwhile, named the little guy Ee Ooo, because of the little sounds he was making to communicate. They also gave him a blue blanket to comfort him while he waited for his rescuers.
Sadly, Ee Ooo's plight isn't unique. Many young gibbons in Southeast Asia are plucked from the wild to be sold as pets or to be used as photo props for tourists. It is likely his parents were shot and killed by hunters so that they could kidnap him and try to sell him.
"In the wild, young gibbons stay with their family unit, consisting of their mother, father and older siblings, who stay with their parents until they find their own territories, for up to six years," LWRC explained, adding that this orphan still needs love and care. "At his young age, he should still be hanging onto his mother's chest in the rainforest."
But habitat loss poses yet another threat to gibbon survival. Agriculture has expanded into the rainforests where gibbons thrive. These factors combined explain why the gibbon is critically endangered. So LWRC is still looking for a protected area where it can release rescued gibbons once they're independent.
When rescuers arrived for Ee Ooo earlier this month, they examined him and were pleased to find him in relatively good health. They transferred him into a carrier and brought him back to the rescue center, where five other little rescued gibbons are currently living. But Ee Ooo is still visibly shaken from his ordeal.
"Since his arrival, he has been unable to part with his blue blanket that the government gave him for warmth," LWRC said. "Sadly, he continues cling onto and suckle on his blanket in absence of his mother's companionship, and the rescue team has left this with him as a source of comfort in his new environment."
Rescuers are bottle-feeding Ee Ooo to help him gain his strength. Soon they will build him a little "gym" where he'll be able to learn how to climb and swing.
"We hope one day Ee Ooo, and our other gorgeous gibbons, may be returned to the wild," LWRC wrote.
We hope so, too.
To help build a bigger habitat at the rescue center for orphaned gibbons, you can make a donation to Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), which runs the LWRC.