6 min read

This Is Where Family's 'Pet' Lived For 10 Years

"We had to save her from this hellhole."

The ape’s cage was filled with trash — plastic water bottles, plastic bags and old, rotting food. But she had no way to escape the mess, and she’d been stuck inside the cage for 10 long years.

Earlier this week, Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) got a call from a man living in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, who wanted to surrender a northern white-cheeked gibbon, whom he was keeping as pet.

Gibbon sticking his head out of cage
Thong sticking her head out of her derelict cage | WFFT

Ten years ago, the man said, his ex-girlfriend had bought the gibbon, named Thong, from the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, a place that’s notorious for selling illegally captured wildlife. Thong had only been an infant at the time, and she’d probably watched traffickers kill her entire family before being taken into captivity. Not only that, but northern white-cheeked gibbons are critically endangered animals, so capturing and selling these animals would be detrimental to the species.

Gibbon trapped in derelict cage
Thong sticking her head through one of the holes in her cage | WFFT

The man and his family did appear to care for Thong in their own way, but they weren’t equipped to look after her.

“We were informed by the owners that Thong had escaped five times and attacked and injured members of the public,” Tom Taylor, assistant director of WFFT, told The Dodo. “They had finally realized that she is a dangerous wild animal and not a suitable pet, [and] they were worried she would escape and attack more people.”

Gibbon on top of pile of plastic bottles
Thong spent 10 years living in a mess of plastic bottles and other trash. | WFFT

Thong’s cage was patched together with scrap metal, rope and plastic, and her owners would pass her food and water through holes in the cage.

“They hand-fed her treats and drinking water in plastic containers,” Taylor said. “She had no regular access to drinking water, so they just handed [her] bottles which she opened herself. The cage did not have a door so it could not be opened.”

Gibbon trapped in horrible cage

The cage was never cleaned, so Thong had to eat, sleep and defecate all in one place. To make matters worse, there were only three holes through which Thong could stick out her head and see the outside world.

When the WFFT team received photos of Thong inside her trash-filled cage, they didn’t waste a minute and quickly went to rescue her. "We had to save her from this hellhole so we headed out first thing this morning to free her," Taylor wrote in a Facebook post.

Gibbon sticking her out of cage

To be able to get Thong out, the rescue team had to use a knife to chop through the rope and plastic encompassing the cage, which Taylor said was the hardest part of the rescue mission. But once they’d made a hole that was big enough, they were able to remove Thong and transfer her to the WFFT rescue center.

Person cutting through rope of cage
One of the rescuers cutting an opening in Thong's cage | WFFT

“Surprisingly, after the initial health check, her body weight is normal and her movement does not seem too restricted, considering she has spent years confined to that small dirty cage,” Taylor said. “She is currently in quarantine, where she will be observed, and we will also do blood tests to see if there are any underlying problems.”

Rescuers pulling gibbon out
The rescuers pulling Thong out of the cage where she lived for 10 years | WFFT

Thong is settling in well at the rescue center, and she’s already calling out to the other gibbons nearby, Taylor said.

“We have other rescued northern white-cheeked gibbons at WFFT, so she’ll be able to make some friends,” Taylor said. “We hope that she can move onto one of WFFT's large forested gibbon islands.”

Gibbon in transport cage in rescue truck
Thong in her transport carrier on her way to the rescue center | WFFT

“She is only 10 years old, and gibbons have been known to live up to 40 years old,” Taylor added. “So she has a lot of time to learn how to be a gibbon again and enjoy her new life.”

To help rescue more gibbons like Thong, as well as elephants, tigers, tortoises and other wild animals, you can make a donation to WFFT.