Police arrest Lao man in killing of endangered white-cheeked gibbon

Illegal hunting has reduced the numbers of the small tree-dwelling ape to about 600.
By RFA Lao
2024.05.23
Police arrest Lao man in killing of endangered white-cheeked gibbon A white-cheeked gibbon watches the photographer at the zoo in Duisburg, Germany, on Feb. 20, 2015.
(Martin Meissner/AP)

Police in Laos have accused a man of killing a white-cheeked gibbon – a small tree-dwelling ape that is listed as an endangered and protected species in the country.

Illegal hunting and the wildlife trade have reduced the numbers of white-cheeked gibbons in areas near the Laos-Vietnam border to about 600, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Phaiboun Thammavong of Phou Mak Neng village in central Khammouane province was arrested on May 15 and charged with violating Article 337 of Laos’ criminal code, which states that anyone who catches, detains, kills or sells endangered and protected species can be jailed from six months to three years.

A resident of the same village told Radio Free Asia that white-cheeked gibbons sometimes come down from an area known as Phou Pha Man Mountain to wander from house to house.

“These animals sometimes enter my home, which is about two 2 kilometers from the mountain,” he said. 

Authorities often warn residents of potential severe punishment for those who catch, eat or sell a white-cheeked gibbon, the resident said.

The area is popular among poachers who forage for food – sometimes at night, a police official from the province’s Khounkham district told RFA. 

“The mountain where they live is a protected forest and a tourist attraction, and the spot where the gibbon was killed is close to the protected forest,” he said.

If convicted, Phaiboun Thammavong could also face a fine of between 10 million kip (US$500) and 50 million kip (US$2,500).

He is also charged with posting photos of the gibbon on social media, according to a police statement.

“We’re enforcing the law. We’re investigating and interrogating the arrested man,” the police official said. 

Another resident of Khounkham district said he believes there is a second suspect in the killing of the gibbon who has not yet been arrested.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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