Applying culturomics to understand the motives behind the surrender of pet gibbons: Evidence from Indonesia




Abstract. Abdi AM. 2023. Applying culturomics to understand the motives behind the surrender of pet gibbons: Evidence from Indonesia. Biodiversitas 24: 4606-4616. Seven of nine gibbon (Hylobatidae) species in Indonesia are protected by national regulation with threats to habitat fragmentation and illegal trade. People persist in owning gibbons as pet animals, violating the protected species law. To date, numerous pet gibbons have been surrendered to the authorities, which could result from intensified public awareness. More targeted demand reduction campaigns may be possible with a better understanding of the motivations behind these handovers. This study aims to document gibbon surrenders by the public to authorities and the motives behind these actions. Instagram posts and online local news were collated and analyzed between 2016 and 2023, comprising information on gibbon handovers to the authorities. From the 138 posts analyzed, 161 gibbon individuals, including 6 species from Sumatra (47.2%), Kalimantan (29.8%), Java (21.7%), and Bali (1.2%) were surrendered. Since 2016, the annual number of gibbons received by authorities has steadily increased. Handover motives appear to be overwhelmingly based on legal reasons. Although regarded as ineffective in mitigating trade, law enforcement and fear of the law were the primary reasons for gibbon handovers. Therefore, publicizing successful law enforcement cases of gibbon trade in the media could deter future buyers and reduce demand.


Abdi, A. M., Anasari, S. D., Pareke, F. A., Sánchez, K. L., Moore, R. S., Cheyne, S. M. 2021. Swing trading: an overview of online gibbon trade in Indonesia over a six-year period. Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management International Conference (WECMIC).
Aldrich, B. A., & Neale, D. 2021. Pet macaques in Vietnam: An NGO’s perspective. Animals 11(1): 1–10.
Ballejo, F., Plaza, P. I., & Lambertucci, S. A. 2021. Framing of visual content shown on popular social media may affect viewers’ attitudes to threatened species. Scientific Reports 11(1): 1–10.
Brockelman, W. Y., Reichard, U., Treesucon, U., Raemaekers, J. J. 1998. Dispersal, pair formation and social structure in gibbons (Hylobates lar). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 42(5): 329–339.
Burivalova, Z., Lee, T. M., Hua, F., Lee, J. S. H., Prawiradilaga, D. M., Wilcove, D. S. 2017. Understanding consumer preferences and demography in order to reduce the domestic trade in wild-caught birds. Biological Conservation 209: 423–431.
Campbell, C. O., Cheyne, S. M., Rawson, B. M. 2015. Best Practice Guidelines for the Rehabilitation and Translocation of Gibbons. In Best Practice Guidelines for the Rehabilitation and Translocation of Gibbons 51.
Chen, H. C., Geissmann, T., Chen, P. C. 2004. A survey of the taxonomic status of captive gibbons in Taiwan. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 52(1): 265–269.
Cheyne, S. M. 2009. Challenges and opportunities of primate rehabilitation - Gibbons as a case study. Endangered Species Research 9(2): 159–165.
Chng, S. C. L., Krishnasamy, K., Eaton, J. A. 2015. In the market for extinction: An inventory of Jakarta’s bird markets. TRAFFIC Report 34(September).
Correia, R. A., Ladle, R., Jari?, I., Malhado, A. C. M., Mittermeier, J. C., Roll, U., Soriano-Redondo, A., Veríssimo, D., Fink, C., Hausmann, A., Guedes-Santos, J., Vardi, R., & Di Minin, E. 2021. Digital data sources and methods for conservation culturomics. Conservation Biology 35(2): 398–411.
Cronin, K. A., Leahy, M., Ross, S. R., Schook, M. W., Ferrie, G. M., Alba, A. C. 2022. Younger generations are more interested than older generations in having nondomesticated animals as pets. PLoS ONE 17(1 January): 1–15.
Di Minin, E., Fink, C., Hiippala, T., Tenkanen, H. 2019. A framework for investigating illegal wildlife trade on social media with machine learning. Conservation Biology 33(1): 210–213.
Duarte-Quiroga, A., Estrada, A. 2003. Primates as Pets in Mexico City: An Assessment of the Species Involved, Source of Origin, and General Aspects of Treatment. American Journal of Primatology 61(2): 53–60.
Freund, C., Rahman, E., Knott, C. 2017. Ten years of orangutan-related wildlife crime investigation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. American Journal of Primatology 79(11).
Geissmann, T., Geschke, K., Blanchard, B. J. 2009. Longevity in gibbons (Hylobatidae). Gibbon Journal 5: 81–92.
Herzog, H. A., Bentley, R. A., Hahn, M. W. 2004. Random drift and large shifts in popularity of dog breeds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 271(SUPPL. 5).
Jones-engel, L., Schillaci, M., Engel, G., Paputungan, U., Froehlich, J. 2005. Characterizing primate pet ownership in Sulawesi: implications for disease transmission. Primate Pets and Disease Transmission January: 113–137.
Koster, J., Noss, A. 2014. Hunting dogs and the extraction of wildlife as a resource. In M. E. Gompper (Ed.), Free-Ranging Dogs and Wildlife Conservation (First Edit, pp. 265–285). Oxford University Press. United Kingdom.
Ladle, R. J., Correia, R. A., Do, Y., Joo, G. J., Malhado, A. C. M., Proulx, R., Roberge, J. M., Jepson, P. 2016. Conservation culturomics. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(5): 269–275.
Liska, J. 1999. Communicating nature: Wild animals in the living room. Anthrozoos 12(2): 88–95.
Luskin, M. S., Christina, E. D., Kelley, L. C., Potts, M. D. 2014. Modern Hunting Practices and Wild Meat Trade in the Oil Palm Plantation-Dominated Landscapes of Sumatra, Indonesia. Human Ecology 42(1): 35–45.
Margulies, J. D., Bullough, L. A., Hinsley, A., Ingram, D. J., Cowell, C., Goettsch, B., Klitgård, B. B., Lavorgna, A., Sinovas, P., Phelps, J. 2019. Illegal wildlife trade and the persistence of “plant blindness.” Plants People Planet 1(3): 173–182.
Masters, S., Anthoons, B., Madesis, P., G. Saroja, S., Schermer, M., Gerritsen, W., Karahan, A., Verdoes, R., Schwallier, R., van Andel, T., de Boer, H., Gravendeel, B. 2022. Quantifying an online wildlife trade using a web crawler. Biodiversity and Conservation 31(3): 855–869.
Militz, T. A., Foale, S. 2017. The “Nemo Effect”: Perception and reality of Finding Nemo’s impact on marine aquarium fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 18(3): 596–606.
Morgan, J., Chng, S. 2018. Rising internet-based trade in the Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise Astrochelys yniphora in Indonesia highlights need for improved enforcement of CITES. Oryx 52(4): 744–750.
Nijman, V. 2009. An assessment of trade in gibbons and orang-utans in Sumatra, Indonesia. In An assessment of trade in gibbons and orang-utans in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Nijman, V., Martinez, C. fui Y., Shepherd, C. R. 2009. Saved from trade: Donated and confiscated gibbons in zoos and rescue centres in Indonesia. Endangered Species Research 9(2): 151–157.
Nijman, V., Nekaris, K. A. I. 2017. The Harry Potter effect: The rise in trade of owls as pets in Java and Bali, Indonesia. Global Ecology and Conservation 11(June): 84–94.
Nijman, V., Smith, J. H., Foreman, G., Campera, M., Feddema, K., Nekaris, K. A. I. 2021. Monitoring the trade of legally protected wildlife on facebook and instagram illustrated by the advertising and sale of apes in indonesia. Diversity 13(6): 1–14.
Open Government Partnership. 2019. Open Government Partnership Global Report. 10 April 2023.
Paudel, K., Hinsley, A., Veríssimo, D., & Milner-Gulland, E. 2022. Evaluating the reliability of media reports for gathering information about illegal wildlife trade seizures. PeerJ 10: 1–18.
[PPID] Pejabat Pengelola Informasi dan Dokumentasi. 2018. Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan. 10 April 2023. [Indonesian]
Rodríguez, L., Reuter, K. E., Schaefer, M. 2020. Motivations of pet parrot ownership and captive conditions of the pets in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 15(1): 13–18.
Sbragaglia, V., Correia, R. A., Di Minin, E. 2021. Responsible use of social media data is needed: A reply to Maya-Jariego et al. “Plenty of black money: Netnography of illegal recreational underwater fishing in southern Spain.” Marine Policy, 134(August): 104780.
Setiawan, A., Cahyaningrum, E., Sibarani, M. C., Oktaviani, R., Nayasilana, I. N., Rifqi, M. A., Abdi, A. M., Rusmadipraja, I. A., Prasetyo, D. 2021. The future of Indonesian gibbons: challenges and recommendations. Oryx 55(5): 649–650.
Shepherd, C. R., Sukumaran, J., Wich, S. A. 2004. Open Season: An Analysis of the Pet Trade in Medan, Sumatra 1997-2001. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
Sherman, J., Ancrenaz, M., Meijaard, E. 2020. Shifting apes: Conservation and welfare outcomes of Bornean orangutan rescue and release in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Journal for Nature Conservation 55(January): 125807.
Soulsbury, C. D., Iossa, G., Kennell, S., Harris, S. 2009. The welfare and suitability of primates kept as pets. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 12(1): 1–20.
Sung, Y. H., Fong, J. J. 2018. Assessing consumer trends and illegal activity by monitoring the online wildlife trade. Biological Conservation 227: 219–225.
Toivonen, T., Heikinheimo, V., Fink, C., Hausmann, A., Hiippala, T., Järv, O., Tenkanen, H., Di Minin, E. 2019. Social media data for conservation science: A methodological overview. Biological Conservation 233(November 2018): 298–315.
Utamidata, S. 2017. Opini: Cerita Dibalik Banyaknya Penyerahan Satwa Liar oleh Masyarakat. Mongabay. 10 April 2023. [Indonesian].
Wong, R. W. Y., Lemieux, A. M. 2021. Poaching of Domestic Protected Species in China: Using Legal Cases to Understand the Poaching of Wild Boars. Deviant Behavior 42(6): 792–806.
Wu, Y., Xie, L., Huang, S. L., Li, P., Yuan, Z., Liu, W. 2018. Using social media to strengthen public awareness of wildlife conservation. Ocean and Coastal Management 153(July 2017): 76–83.
You, Q., Cao, L., Jin, H., Luo, J. 2016. Robust visual-textual sentiment analysis: When attention meets tree-structured recursive neural networks. MM 2016 - Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Multimedia Conference, 1008–1017.
Yudha, A. P., Kusrini, M. D., Arida, E. 2022. Chasing for water monitors using dogs in West Java, Indonesia: a recreational hunting or pest control? Ethnobiology and Conservation 4(February).