Milestone for Hainan Gibbon conservation: Family number and population hit record high in over 40 years

Post Date:  Tuesday 28 April 2020
Category:  Nature Conservation

Hainan Gibbon, the world’s rarest primate, has formed a fifth family group outside its last refuge in a 16km2 forest fragment on Hainan Island in China, representing the largest number of family groups recorded in recent history and demonstrating the ability of this critically endangered species to expand its range, according to a recently-published news co-authored by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) and Hainan Wildlife Conservation and Management Bureau in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.

This is the second piece of good news this year for the Hainan Gibbon that is endemic to Hainan Island. Back in January, results of the latest Hainan Gibbon population census, co-organised by KFBG and Hainan Bawangling National Nature Reserve (Bawangling), reported that the population of Hainan Gibbon rebounded to more than 30, up from the record low of less than 10 in the 1970s.

 

Saving the world’s rarest primate

 

In the 1950s, it was estimated that there were more than 2,000 Hainan Gibbons living in tropical forests across 12 counties in Hainan. But habitat loss and rampant poaching almost drove the species to extinction. By the 1970s, the primary forest of Bawangling became the safe haven for what might be the species’ last members.

KFBG has been collaborating with Bawangling since 2003 to save the species from the grips of extinction. After we confirmed the world population was only 13 individuals in two family groups after the first comprehensive population survey conducted in 2003, we drafted a long-term species conservation action plan and implemented a suite of conservation measures.

Philip Lo, senior conservation officer at KFBG in charge of our Hainan Gibbon conservation project, says: “Our key conservation measures include funding and training two gibbon monitoring teams, sponsoring researchers to study the species, conducting annual population census, planting the species’ favourite native food trees produced by a local nursery, promoting sustainable agriculture and conducting awareness raising activities amongst the local community. With our concerted efforts, the population of Hainan Gibbon has been gradually recovering, with a third and fourth family group formed in 2011 and 2015, respectively.”

 

Looking into the future

 

Although the Hainan Gibbon has more than doubled in both number and family group since we started conservation intervention, and is the only gibbon species assessed by the IUCN Red List to have a stable population – all 18 other species in the world are experiencing population declines – it remains the rarest primate on earth and is not yet safe from the cusp of extinction. We will strive to ensure a bright future for the Hainan Gibbon.

 

Read the report in Oryx: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605320000083

 

-- END --

 

 

Mr. Philip Lo is available for interviews.

For media enquiries and interview arrangement, please contact:

Ms Hilary Su

Tel:                      2483 7270

Email:                  media@kfbg.org

 

 

 

Appendix 1: Hainan Gibbon Fact Sheet

Species Name
  • Nomascus hainanus
Global Range
  • Endemic to Hainan Island, China
  • Currently confined to the Hainan Bawangling National Nature Reserve
Conservation Status
  • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I
  • China’s National Key Protected Wild Animal List: Class I
Key Facts
  • World’s rarest primate
  • Only gibbon species assessed by the IUCN Red List to have a stable population – all 18 other species are declining in numbers
Physical Characteristic
  • Adult males are jet black with a hairy crest
  • Adult females are golden yellow with a black crown
Population
  • 1950s: More than 2,000 individuals
  • 1970s: Less than 10 individuals
  • 2003: 13 individuals (two groups)
  • 2019: >30 individuals (five groups)
Habits
  • Lives in the forest canopy and never seen on the ground
Social Structure
  • Lives in family units consisting of one male, two females and their immature offspring
Song
  • Breeding adults sing duets at dawn to mark their territories and enhance bonding, bachelors also sing solos to attract females
Diet
  • Fruits, flowers, young leaves and some animal protein
Threats
  • Small population size may cause inbreeding
  • Loss of optimal lowland forest
  • Human disturbances
  • Poaching

 

 

 

Appendix 2: Photos

Note: Please credit the photos to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.

Hainan Gibbons (Photo Credit: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden) Adult males are jet black with a hairy crest, while adult females are golden yellow with a black crown.
Hainan Gibbon (Photo Credit: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden) Hainan Gibbons live in families consisting of one male, two females and their immature offspring. Breeding adults sing duets at dawn to mark their territories and enhance bonding, bachelors also sing solos to attract females.
In 2003, KFBG was invited by the Hainan forestry authorities to help save the Hainan Gibbon. Our first comprehensive population survey confirmed that there were only 13 individuals in two family groups left in the world. KFBG then convened the first Hainan Gibbon Conservation Workshop and implemented a long-term conservation action plan. In 2003, KFBG was invited by the Hainan forestry authorities to help save the Hainan Gibbon. Our first comprehensive population survey confirmed that there were only 13 individuals in two family groups left in the world. KFBG then convened the first Hainan Gibbon Conservation Workshop and implemented a long-term conservation action plan.
KFBG has been sponsoring Bawangling to conduct regular monitoring on Hainan Gibbons in their primary rainforest home since 2005. We also established a community monitoring team consisting of members of the local ethic minority groups at the Qingsong neighbourhood abutting Bawangling in 2011 to cover the home ranges of all known gibbon groups. KFBG has been sponsoring Bawangling to conduct regular monitoring on Hainan Gibbons in their primary rainforest home since 2005. We also established a community monitoring team consisting of members of the local ethic minority groups at the Qingsong neighbourhood abutting Bawangling in 2011 to cover the home ranges of all known gibbon groups.
KFBG works with Bawangling to conduct the annual Hainan Gibbon population survey. The survey team, which is made up of 40 to 50 people, typically spends five days camping in the heart of the gibbon territories to listen out for the species’ characteristic song at dawn, track them down and count their numbers. KFBG works with Bawangling to conduct the annual Hainan Gibbon population survey. The survey team, which is made up of 40 to 50 people, typically spends five days camping in the heart of the gibbon territories to listen out for the species’ characteristic song at dawn, track them down and count their numbers.
KFBG trained and funded Bawangling to set up native tree nurseries to increase the number of gibbon’s food trees and expand their habitat. Over 80,000 fast-growing seedlings from 51 native tree species have been planted in 150 hectares of degraded lowland forest for the Hainan Gibbon. Some of the seedlings planted 10 years ago are starting to bear fruit! KFBG trained and funded Bawangling to set up native tree nurseries to increase the number of gibbon’s food trees and expand their habitat. Over 80,000 fast-growing seedlings from 51 native tree species have been planted in 150 hectares of degraded lowland forest for the Hainan Gibbon. Some of the seedlings planted 10 years ago are starting to bear fruit!
KFBG conducted awareness-raising fun fairs and painted colourful murals in the local villages and schools in order to instil love and respect for the Hainan Gibbon. KFBG conducted awareness-raising fun fairs and painted colourful murals in the local villages and schools in order to instil love and respect for the Hainan Gibbon.
KFBG promoted sustainable agriculture in Qingsong Township, the closest village to the Hainan Gibbons, to reduce villagers’ reliance on the forest, thus reducing disturbances to the gibbons. Sustainable agriculture concepts include rubber analogue agroforestry and eco-beekeeping. KFBG promoted sustainable agriculture in Qingsong Township, the closest village to the Hainan Gibbons, to reduce villagers’ reliance on the forest, thus reducing disturbances to the gibbons. Sustainable agriculture concepts include rubber analogue agroforestry and eco-beekeeping.