Gibbons - The Lesser Ape
Gibbons - The Lesser Ape

Many years ago, and what almost seems like another life-time ago, I was a studious anthropology student on a mission on becoming the next Jane Goodall. My days were filled with Austrolopithicus Afarensis fossils and primate studies, my afternoons cleaning up gibbon poop, and my evenings serving Starbucks coffee. A meager financial picture, indeed. But what are gibbons, you ask? And why would I subject myself to cleaning up the feces of such an animal for free?

As an anthropology student pursuing the idea of becoming a professor of anthropology (because what else was I going to do with such a degree?) I decided it would be a terrific experience to work with the lesser-known ape, the gibbon. Mostly found in Thailand and Southeast Asia, the gibbon is an arboreal ape, meaning it lives in the trees, and is quite a bit smaller in size compared to its distant cousin the orangutan. Most gibbons are tan or brown/black in color with exceptionally long arms. Their adorable faces make them appear huggable, but wiser individuals know better than to hug a wild animal.

My intern experience consisted of feeding the gibbons, the more enjoyable activity, and cleaning their cages which could be daunting with them swinging over my head. I thought that this experience would prepare me for my future sabbatical work in the forests of Indonesia studying apes. What I didn’t know was that my time was valuable and my future wasn’t heading in the direction I thought it was. Yet interning for a good cause made me realize that sometimes donating time and energy on beliefs can foster a more complete appreciation for nature or things you love and that money isn’t always the motivation behind the goal.

Did I become the next Jane Goodall of the Gibbons? No. After a year of interning with the gibbons, something happened. A few terrifying moments in their enclosure, with one in particular showing aggression through displays of howling and teeth baring, I lost my nerve and realized I wasn’t as brave as I thought I was. My life after college quickly morphed from college student to corporate worker. A more stable financial picture, but not as enjoyable. After a few career changes, I finally fell into something I enjoyed, had  flexible hours, and allowed me to be creative.

Volunteering for a good cause is still on my radar; of course I haven’t quite decided what I feel most strongly about, but I have a few ideas in the works.

Thanks to First Gen American for such as terrific topic- apes!


  1. Thanks for participating. It was good fun reading the articles today.

    Sometimes when you have a passion about a lot of things, it’s important to figure out what you don’t like to lead you to something that suits you better. Putting yourself in harm’s way may be something some people find exciting, but for others it’s a deal breaker.

    Great perspective.

  2. Squirrelers Reply

    That must have been an interesting experience, Little House. Sometimes experiences such as these, which are non-monetary in nature (for the most part), can teach us quite a bit about life.

    Must have been quite a tense situation to have a gibbon baring its teeth and howling as you mentioned. That sounds like it could sway many folks to safer endeavors!
    .-= Squirrelers´s last blog ..Does it Matter Who is the Main Provider Between Husband and Wife =-.

  3. What an incredible experience (not the part about the teeth and growling or the picking up dropping duty (hehe)…).

    I think it’s great you gave it a shot, so you knew for sure. Wouldn’t it have been horrible to one day think “I wish I would have persued this, I think it would really have liked it”…

    Great story Little House 🙂
    .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..Getting that Debt Monkey Off Of Your Back =-.

  4. Khaleef @ KNS Financial Reply

    I couldn’t imagine picking up gibbon poop with them swinging over my head like that! But at least you still have the urge to volunteer in you!

    That’s great!

    • @Khaleef – While I was writing this article, I remembered my fond feelings for the Gibbons so many years ago. It was a wonderful experience. I hope to find something similar in the future (though I’m leaning towards building houses, so we’ll see. 😉 ).

      @Money Reasons – You’re right, had I never tried working with the apes in the beginning, there would definitely be something missing. I’m very glad I did it when I was young!

      @Squirrelers – I cherish experiences over things any day. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more timid. I think the whole part of pain and suffering scares me. 😉

      @First Gen American – Thanks for introducing this challenge topic – it was one I hold near and dear to my heart. 🙂

  5. Very interesting! I cannot imagine how fascinating that internship must have been. You did such a great job describing it that I felt like I was in that cage with the scary gibbon!
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..The Tale Of The Smelly Laundry Room Tips For Those With High Efficiency Washing Machines =-.

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