China Eco Tales: Hainan Gibbon Fun Facts (I)

Posted Date: Thursday 2 August 2018    

Gibbons, together with the Orang-utans of Asia and Chimpanzee and Gorillas of Africa, are the four living non-human apes. They all lack a tail and are considered the closest relatives to human. Gibbons are only found in tropical Asia and live a highly specialized life. A total of 20 species are recognized worldwide, of which 6 are known from China. They are Gaoligong Hoolock Gibbon, White-handed Gibbon, Northern White-cheeked Gibbon, Western Black Crested Gibbon, Eastern Black Crested Gibbon and Hainan Gibbon. Hainan Gibbon (Nomascus hainanus) is the most critically endangered primate in the world with only 4 groups of no more than 30 individuals left! 

The six Gibbon species in China


Gaoligong Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys)


White-handed Gibbon (Hylobates lar)


Northern White-cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys)

Western Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus concolor) male calling
© Dr. Fan Peng-Fei / Fauna & Flora International (FFI)


Eastern Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)
In 2006, KFBG rediscovered Eastern Black Crested Gibbon in China.


Hainan Gibbon (Nomascus hainanus)

Hainan Gibbon is endemic to Hainan Island of China, and lives in extensive, intact lowland rainforest. Because of habitat loss, it is now only found in a patch of primary rainforest in Bawangling National Nature Reserve. They are strictly arboreal and have never been seen on the ground. Therefore, they make use of their long arms to travel by swinging by the arms (called brachiation). Hainan Gibbon feeds mainly on ripe, pulpy forest fruits, but also young leaves and flower buds, and also supplement with animal proteins. However, fruit trees are scattered in the forest, and fruiting season varies, meaning they need tall, well-structured, continuous forest to survive. 

However, such intact forest is becoming rare, and gibbons are losing their homes. 

Hainan Gibbon brachiating on tree branches (Can you find it?)

For the answer to the above question and a lot more information and footage please click here.

Adult males are jet black with a hairy crest, and adult females are golden yellow with a black crown. Unlike other gibbon species, a Hainan Gibbon family has two wives and has large family group. Hainan Gibbons form family groups, the parents and their offspring make loud morning songs most days to mark their territories and enhance family bonding. Mature offspring leave their family groups to find new partner and establish new territory.


Hainan Gibbons have never been seen on the ground


Adult females are golden yellow