​​​​​​​Rescuing Owa Jawa, Rescuing People

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EditDescription:This Owa Jawa was released to wild on August 2016.
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Who would have thought an animal can help human conserve the environment? Let's look at how the Silvery Gibbons/Owa Jawa (Hylobates moloch) preserve their habitat—the tropical forests.

Owa Jawa is small in size and grayish in color, and one of five primates find only in Java Island. This tailless endemic is protected by Law No. 5/1990​, and has made the list of endangered species due to the widespread deforestation in Java's forests and being poached for pet trade. Primatologists estimate only 4000​​ of them are left in the wild, with most living in western Java forests and a small number found in Central Java.

An Owa Jawa family consists of a pair of parents and one to three infants. They are monogamist, or committed to one partner for the rest of their lives. They retain a territory, ranging from 15 to 20 hectares for each family. Every morning, female Owa Jawa will sound a morning call to mark their territory.

They are fruit-eating primates (frugifore) as more than 50% of their diet comprises fruits—with leaves, flowers, and insects on the side. As a fruit-eater, Owa Jawa plays a key role in keeping their habitat, the tropical forests, intact. They help spread seeds of the fruits they eat by dispersing them through their excrement. The seeds will then fall to the forest floor and grow into new plants.

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EditDescription:Forests in Mount Gede Pangrango National Park becomes the most important habitat to preserve Javan Gibbon.
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Both, forests and the primates are in a mutual symbiotic relationship in which they need each other. When Owa Jawa takes foods from the forests, they at the same time maintain the ecosystem balance. The fact that Owa Jawa can only live in a favorable forest environment acts as an indicator to measure the health of tropical forests in Java Island. A happy and fulfilled Owa Jawa means a healthy forest.

The effort to conserve Owa Jawa does not solely focus on rescuing the species, but is also an effort to rescue the remaining tropical forests in Java Island. After all, in addition to mitigating climate change impacts, forests also provide basic human needs such as oxygen and water.

In line with the "Visit National Park" campaign by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the existence of Owa Jawa in the wild can be a point of interest for ecotourism activities. Tourists can visit conservation areas and other areas outside the conservation areas to watch them in action. It will certainly give a boost to the local economy.

Unfortunately, Owa Jawa is still facing increasing threats. Habitat destruction, poaching, trading, and people turning them into pets are among the major threats to their existence in the wild. Conservationists have made various efforts to reduce these threats, including through habitat restoration, law enforcement, ecological study of Owa Jawa, edification to increase awareness of conservation, and rehabilitation and reintroduction of Owa Jawa.

Any efforts to conserve Owa Jawa will fail without the community's support. Their participation—such as by refraining from poaching, trading or destructing the habitat of this animal—will determine the success of conservation efforts. They should also report to the Conservation of Natural Resource Office anyone they know raising Owa Jawa as a pet.

Let's work together to rescue Owa Jawa(Latipah Syaepulloh/September 9, 2016​)