Dr. Shirley McGreal

A gibbon singing at IPPL

A gibbon singing at IPPL

In 1977, Dr. McGreal founded the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, South Carolina, after spending years in India and Thailand and seeing the plight of primates internationally and in the U.S. When she saw the overseas markets, she discovered a thriving trade in orphaned monkeys whose mothers are generally killed in front of them in order to capture their babies. Great numbers of macaques and gibbons are still for sale in these markets - they are in small cages to be sold as pets, or drugged to perform in bars and restaurants for tourists. Others are packed in crates and shipped to laboratories and breeding facilities to become subjects of human experiments.

I visited with Shirley in April 2016 at IPPL, home to over 30 gibbons, along with two Asian short-clawed otters, and two dogs, a Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees. The League's major conference had just ended, a bi-annual event where donor members and speakers share time with the sanctuary staff and primate residents, and learn about the organization's progress and challenges, as well as the picture for primates worldwide. 

Dr. McGreal and the staff expressed to me that even though the sanctuary is a peaceful, loving, and safe environment, they consider it tragic that the gibbons must live out their lives confined in enclosures, rather than swinging free in the wild with their families and forest homes intact. 


Interview Excerpts

Introduction and Shirley’s Path to Starting a Gibbon Sanctuary

How Gibbons Are Captured

On Anthropomorphism and Relating to Gibbons 

A Primer on Primates & Qualities of Gibbons 

Meeting Some of the Gibbons With Shirley

Meeting Gibby, Who Was Used In Research Experiments

On Religious Foundations for Using Animals

The Conditions Gibbons Experience When Used to Entertain

Gibbon Family Life

Using Primates In Research

On Human Preoccupation With Intelligence of Other Animals 

Meeting a Gibbon Who Was Used in Cancer Research

Thoughts on Zoos and the Future for Animals

Meeting the Resident Otters

The Gibbons Hold Forth Singing