Saving Small Apes

Swinging conservation in favour of Gibbons

Cambodia female Northern Yellow-Cheeked Gibbon by Wildlife Conservation Society

Cambodia female Northern Yellow-Cheeked Gibbon by Wildlife Conservation Society

Hylobates moloch by Janick Claes

Hylobates moloch by Janick Claes

"To let the wild animals free in the forest is the easiest thing that people should do to keep our nature in balance. I am proud and happy that in my time, I still see gibbons free - roaming in the forest."

- Mr. Dudi Denci, a Coffee farmer near JPRC, Indonesia

Gibbon: Small Ape

Known for their vigorous vocal displays, Gibbons are unique small apes composed of 20 species, all of which are endemic to South and Southeast Asia. Globally, they are one of the most threatened families of primates; six species are considered Critically Endangered, 13 Endangered, and one Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

This means they are each at imminent risk of extinction.

Conserving these small apes seems a daunting task, however, interventions are underway in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam, supported by the IUCN Save Our Species programme.

Cao vit gibbon mother with her baby-photo by Zhao Chao

Cao vit gibbon mother with her baby-photo by Zhao Chao

In the forest, gibbons play an important role in seed dispersal, which contributes to maintaining the healthy forests that are their home, and benefit the communities that also utilise forest resources. 

Poaching is one of the major threats to gibbons, as their bones are commonly used in traditional medicine as “monkey bone balm” or tonic additives.

Gibbon populations are also in decline due to habitat loss caused by urban expansion and land conversion mostly for agriculture.

Heeding the call to address the decreasing number of gibbons, earlier this year, IUCN SOS in collaboration with IUCN Asia Regional Office (ARO) launched IUCN SOS Gibbons initiative. The initiative supports frontline conservation activities, conservation planning, knowledge sharing, and raising awareness, all contributing to the long-term survival of gibbons.

Four grants have already been awarded to leading conservation organisations in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, and Indonesia to reduce threats to key gibbon populations and habitats. In Malaysia and Indonesia, IUCN SOS Gibbons is also supporting the development of National Action Plans to help guide future conservation efforts.

In support of International Gibbon Day, IUCN is featuring the four projects currently active in Asia

Cao Vit Gibbon in Trung Khanh by Hoang Van Tuan/ Flora and Fauna International

Cao Vit Gibbon in Trung Khanh by Hoang Van Tuan/ Flora and Fauna International

Cambodia

Long-term conservation of the Northern yellow-cheek gibbon in NE Cambodia, securing a global stronghold  

Conservation International is implementing activities to enhance law enforcement, strengthening the capacity of national park authorities, and providing incentives for local communities to engage in conservation in Vuen Sai Siem Pang National Park (VSSPNP), Cambodia.

“In Cambodia, agricultural expansion and illegal timber trade have led to the loss of 179 hectares of forest per year. Poaching also threatens the Northern yellow-cheek gibbons, “ said Jackson Frechette, Project Manager, Conservation International

Cambodia Female gibbon with infant by Santiago Cassalett

Cambodia Female gibbon with infant by Santiago Cassalett

Cambodia Landscape Veun Sai Siem Pang by Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg

Cambodia Landscape Veun Sai Siem Pang by Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg

Cambodia male gibbon by Santiago Cassalett

Cambodia male gibbon by Santiago Cassalett

Indonesia

The conservation of the Javan silvery gibbon (Hylobates moloch) through rehabilitation and reintroduction of the species combined with habitat protection

Kulon and Putri post release by The Aspinall Foundation

Kulon and Putri post release by The Aspinall Foundation

In Indonesia, the Javan gibbon (Hylobates moloch), IUCN listing Endangered, suffers population decline from illegal pet trade/hunting, and habitat loss/fragmentation. They are highly sought as pets and faces high demand from the world’s black market.

The Aspinall Foundation is rehabilitating and releasing Javan gibbons rescued from the illegal trade, while also protecting their natural habitat on the island of Java.

Cheri chained to a house - illegal pet trade photo by The Aspinall Foundation

Cheri chained to a house - illegal pet trade photo by The Aspinall Foundation


Listen: Mother and baby gibbons singing by The Aspinall Foundation

Listen: Mother and baby gibbons singing by The Aspinall Foundation

“Our ultimate goal is the successful rehabilitation and successful release of Javan gibbons back to the wild. These actions will contribute to maintaining healthy populations in the forest,” said Made Wedana, Country Director, The Aspinall Foundation Java Primate Programme

Kulon and Putri during rehabilitation at JPRC by The Aspinall Foundation

Kulon and Putri during rehabilitation at JPRC by The Aspinall Foundation

Cheri with his mate and baby during rehabiliation at JPRC by The Aspinall Foundation

Cheri with his mate and baby during rehabiliation at JPRC by The Aspinall Foundation

Kulon and Putri post release by The Aspinall Foundation

Kulon and Putri post release by The Aspinall Foundation

Viet Nam

Consolidating and enhancing sustainable, transboundary conservation of the Critically Endangered Cao Vit gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)  

Monitoring gibbons by Nguyen Van Truong/Flora and Fauna International

Monitoring gibbons by Nguyen Van Truong/Flora and Fauna International

The Flora and Fauna International put the spotlight on the conservation of Cao Vit gibbon, the world’s rarest ape, by consolidating and enhancing sustainable, transboundary conservation efforts.

Cao Vit Gibbons in Viet Nam by Flora and Fauna International

Cao Vit Gibbons in Viet Nam by Flora and Fauna International

“Despite protection, threats remain high for the critically endangered Cao Vit gibbon. Primates are still targeted in the region for use in traditional medicine, which is a significant concern,” said Josh Kempinski, Project Manager, Flora and Fauna International

Cao vit gibbon mother with her baby by Zhao Chao

Cao vit gibbon mother with her baby by Zhao Chao

Habitat of Cao Vit Gibbon in Viet Nam by Nguyen Van Truong/ Flora and Fauna International

Habitat of Cao Vit Gibbon in Viet Nam by Nguyen Van Truong/ Flora and Fauna International

Cao vit gibbon in Trung Khanh by Hoang Van Tua/ Flora and Fauna International

Cao vit gibbon in Trung Khanh by Hoang Van Tua/ Flora and Fauna International

Lao PDR

Securing Corridors to Connect Populations of Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) Across the Landscape of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park

White cheeked gibbon calls in Lao PDR by the Wildlife Conservation Society

White cheeked gibbon calls in Lao PDR by the Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society is implementing interventions to secure corridors that connect populations of the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park.

Listen: Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon calls in Lao PDR by Wildlife Conservation Society

Listen: Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon calls in Lao PDR by Wildlife Conservation Society

“Hunting, agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, and forest degradation have led to the fragmentation and loss of habitat for the gibbons. We hope to secure forest corridors through increased protection by rangers, improved management, community engagement, and awareness-raising, ” said Ben Swanepoel, Project Manager, Wildlife Conservation Society

Nomascus leucogenys by Hoang Long/iNaturalist

Nomascus leucogenys by Hoang Long/iNaturalist

Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon by www.gibbons.de.jpg

Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon by www.gibbons.de.jpg

“Gibbons, a close common ancestor of humans, are absolutely vital for maintaining healthy forests. The forests that gibbons inhabit serve to support a myriad of species and provide important resources for local communities, many of whom share cultural and spiritual connections with these wonderful creatures.

Time is running out to conserve gibbons and their habitats. We need to act now and ensure that people and gibbons can live in harmony.”

Mr. Alexander McWilliam, Programme Coordinator, and Project Manager, Natural Resources Group, IUCN Asia.

Cambodia Tree Canopy by Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg

Cambodia Tree Canopy by Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg

By working with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), IUCN Save Our Species is able to develop and select projects in line with globally agreed conservation strategies. The SSC is the world’s largest network of species experts and a fundamental contributor to IUCN's role as provider of the knowledge that guides nature conservation.

IUCN Save Our Species contributes to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals on biodiversity such as Life on Earth (SDG 15) and Life under Water (SDG 14), as well as many of the CBD Aichi Targets. To date, it has funded 160 projects, protecting almost 500 threatened species and supporting 110 Civil Society Organisations operating in 75 countries worldwide.

Prepared by IUCN Asia Regional Office

With contributions from the following IUCN Save Our Species Gibbon Initiative grantees: