The Gibbon Conservation Center (and a giveaway you won’t want to miss!)

GCC Spec Feat

Welcome to a new development happening on Life As a Wave!

From time to time we will be bringing a Special Feature to our readers. Each feature will highlight a person, a film, a book, an organization, etc that we feel is doing important work of interconnection for the larger GOOD.  ~~~S Wave~~~ and Life As a Wave guest writers will be visiting places and interviewing people to find out more about these efforts and to bring inside detail straight to you.

And so, without further ado, I bring you our inaugural Special Feature:

Welcome to the Gibbon Conservation Center!

White-Cheeked Gibbon Credit: LIfe As a Wave

White-Cheeked Gibbon
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

First thing first. Gibbons are not monkeys!

If you accidentally refer to them as monkeys at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, California, you better be prepared to donate a quarter to the Monkey Pig.

The Monkey Pig

The Monkey Pig

"25¢ for saying 'Monkey'"

“25¢ for saying ‘Monkey'”

Since I had planned to visit to the GCC with my 3-year-old niece, I had reinforced the term “monkey” into my vocabulary by using that term with her repeatedly prior to our trip. Needless to say, I had to contribute a fair number of quarters into the Monkey Pig. Despite my best efforts, I found myself repeatedly saying, “…Monkey. Er! I mean…gibbon!” during our private tour with stellar tour guide, Neta Ambar.

Neta Ambar

Neta Ambar
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

Neta knows pretty much all there is to know about gibbons, including of course the simple fact that they are technically “lesser apes.” Neta has been working at the center since 2008 and with a background in cognitive science and a longstanding interest in primatology, she was able to give us the full lowdown on everything gibbon.

The GCC is found about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles. It houses 41 gibbons which represent 5 species of the 17 species that exist. ALL species of gibbons are categorized as “vulnerable,” “endangered,” or “critically endangered.”  Their biggest predator is…..?

Us, of course. The decimation of their natural habitats and populations in southeast Asia is the result of factors such as mining, logging, political unrest, poaching, and the exotic animal trade–causes which are clearly intertwined. However, the most significant current threat to the gibbons’ habitats is…..


…palm oil.

Palm oil is a food additive that is ubiquitous in the foods that you’ll find on your grocery store shelf. The oil and it’s derivatives are easy to spot on an ingredients label. Just look for anything “palm.”

To plant massive fields of palm, companies such as Nestlé are leveling rainforest ecosystems and devastating the populations of animals that live there, including gibbon species. It is estimated that over 26 million acres of rainforest have been destroyed for palm fields.

Palm oil plantation adjacent to native rainforest.

The GCC collaborates internationally with other Species Survival Plans, or SSP’s which work together to repopulate endangered species that are put at risk by rainforest destruction and many other threats. The GCC itself houses the rarest group of apes in the Western Hemisphere. The gibbons here are kept in enclosures in paired or family units. The apes are not tamed so as to better prepare them for possible reintroduction and to help them maintain their family units.

Mother and son. Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

Mother and son.
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

Though it can still be hard for us animal lovers to see animals in chainlink enclosures, the greater good certainly prevails at GCC. The enclosures are designed to allow for the brachiating (arm swinging) that is the gibbons’ main mode of transport and exercise. (Sidenote: Did you know that their other way of getting around is by walking upright? They are our only other relative to do so on a regular basis.)

Armspans can be near twice a gibbon's height! Credit: Life As a Wave

White-Cheeked Gibbon. Armspans can be nearly twice a gibbon’s height!
Photo credit: Life As a Wave

Also, it is reassuring to know that some of the enclosures are temporary since 1) the facility is frequently undergoing renovations to expand the apes’ space and 2) some of the gibbons will be released back into the wild.

Javan Gibbon. (My favorite.) Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

Ivan, a 40 year-old grandfather Javan Gibbon.
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

The GCC has been doing its important work for 37 years and is funded through grants and donations. A team of volunteers, veterinarians and an exceptionally smaller number of full-time employees take great care to tend to the gibbons’ needs, including the 7-10 meals per day that they require. Joe, the volunteer who greeted us during our visit, has given his time for 8 months and drives over an hour from Long Beach to do so.

Neta and Joe are doing their good work. It was an honor to spend the afternoon with them and an equal honor to meet the gibbons they care for. Our interconnection with the earth and with our non-human animal partners calls us to be aware of and involved in some way with their plights. (Because, see, their needs are ultimately our needs too…interconnection.)

So what are some of these ways to be involved? I have 5 suggestions for you. My first suggestion has gradually become my response to most cases of the “But what can I do?” question. No matter what the context, I believe the best and most basic answer to that query is similar to the Pablo Picasso quote:

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

So my first suggestion to you is FIND YOUR GIFT! How will this help the gibbons? Because the more we walk in our gifts and begin to share them with the world, the more the world will begin to change. I am coming to believe more vigorously that the state of our future (ecological, political, spiritual and social) as a species depends heavily on our individual willingness to realize the thing that we are here to do and to enact it, despite how crazy it might seem!

Number two: Stop eating palm oil! I know this is a hard one because palm oil seems to be in everything. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. How about cutting out some products with palm oil. I’m sure you can do without some of those processed foods anyway!

Number three: Sign a petition against palm oil or find local anti-palm initiatives that you can participate in. Click here for a list of ways to get involved. Now is a good time to do so since just earlier this month momentum began building toward positive industry changes.

Number four: Donate to the Gibbon Conservation Center! After all, doesn’t your year-end giving need a little boost? And which of you doesn’t know some child in our lives who wouldn’t like to “adopt” a baby ape like this one??

Dennis the baby gibbon.

Dennis the baby gibbon.
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave

You can make that possible for them by clicking here.

Lastly, number five: Visit the GCC and preservations like it in person. You will be showing your support while also allowing yourself and those with you to connect to the animals in a way that can’t be done through a computer. Nothing is quite like looking into the eyes of an animal and realizing that we really are all in this together.

Javan Gibbon Photo Credit: LIfe As a Wave

Javan Gibbon
Photo Credit: Life As a Wave



And now, GCC and Life As a Wave would like to thank YOU for supporting the center’s mission and for making time to connect with the animals in your life. You are thus invited to enter to receive a special gift from the Gibbon Conservation Center simply for spreading the word about the GCC’s good work. No, a live ape will not be delivered to your doorstep! Nice try. But you will receive a T-shirt and a 2014 calendar from the center. All you have to do is:

1) Share this post with either your WordPress or Facebook network. For Facebook, just copy and past this URL to your page: OR click on the link by the comment box below.

2) Leave a comment letting us know how you find a way to connect to animals in your life.

A winner will be selected soon, on December 24th, so don’t monkey around! Drat, there’s another quarter.


Be well, readers. Stay tuned for another Special Feature in January when we will introduce you to a beautiful new film. Brace yourself for some stunning images!

15 thoughts on “The Gibbon Conservation Center (and a giveaway you won’t want to miss!)

  1. heyata ina says:

    Hello ~~~S Wave~~~ Great post, and what a treasure in Santa Clarita, California! You have me checking for Palm Oil now ~~ here’s a healthful treat WITH ZERO PALM OIL, in fact, it only has 7 ingredients, all pronouncable, non GMO ~~ “KIND” Fruit and Nut Bar!!! Shared on FB! ++

    • Hi Heyata! That’s great that you’re checking for palm oil now. I’m familiar with KIND bars and love them…I have a whole box of them in my yoga bag. 🙂 Please share more recommendations as you find them and thank you for sharing this post with others.

    • heyata ina says:

      And to answer the giveaway question how do I find a way to connect with the animals in MY life: I have two kitties, great kitties. They meet me every day when I get home from work; we play in the living room which basically is their play room … literally, it is FULL of cat toys, and we talk to each other ALL the time !

    • Hi, Jerry. Thanks for reading the post and commenting. I don’t know about substitutes for palm. But one of my other thoughts about the possibility you raise is that any industrial-level farming–hemp, palm, soy, corn–can be detrimental to the local ecosystems. We’ve lost so much topsoil from that kind of model for instance. I think smaller-scale farming is the way of the future. What do you think?

      • From what I’ve heard on hemp is that it is the one plant which humans would want to take along if they had to leave the Earth. People can produce any necessity – building materials, food, beneficial food oils, biofuels, textiles, and many others, Henry Ford made a car using hemp plastic that was lighter and stronger than steel, that ran on hemp fuel. I agree that monoculture agriculture is negative and crop diversity is the way to go. Not sure where the term “industrial” hemp came from, but industrial may conjure images of monoculture farming. Use to buy refrigerated hemp oil in Chicago, but would have to travel a ways to purchase now. My guess is that hemp oil would be a suitable sub for palm. If the USA allowed hemp farming my guess is that hemp would become the consumer choice over palm, perhaps even zeroing the demand for palm, because its superior omega quality.

  2. Life of Bun and Heyata,
    I’ve decided that since you are the sole two who entered the giveaway you BOTH will receive something from the GCC and Life As a Wave! 🙂 Thank you for adding to the conversation and for having such special personal connections with our non-human animal companions. I will contact you individually to get your addresses.
    Happy New Year!
    ~~~S Wave~~~

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