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Rare Gibbon Birth Is Celebration for Conservation

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FFI photo by Zhao Chao

“With only about 100 cao vit gibbons remaining in the world, the recent birth of this baby has extra significance,” Fauna & Flora International said today.

“This species is only found in one location in the world, on the international border between Vietnam and China,” the UK-based conservation charity said in a news release. “This birth is a sign of hope for the species’ long term recovery.”

The gibbon was born in Bang Liang Nature Reserve in Guangxi province, China.

Fauna & Flora International’s conservationists in Vietnam and China are working with local government and communities to reduce the threats to the population of cao vit gibbons, the world’s second rarest ape species.

Gibbons have the longest arms of any primate, relative to body size, according to the FFI species profile about the cao vit gibbon. “Their hand-over hand method of swinging from branch to branch, known as brachiation, enables them to move at breathtaking speed. With its spectacular locomotion and haunting, bird-like calls, the cao vit gibbon is a real show-stealer.” Watch the FFI video below to see and hear the cao vit gibbon.

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Although classified as “lesser apes,” cao vit gibbons are highly intelligent and show complex social behavior, the species profile adds. Males and females proclaim and protect their family territory with “duets,” which can be heard 2 kilometers [1.6 miles] away.

They have also evolved a highly specialized diet of flowers, fruit and young leaves.

“The narrowness of its ecological niche, combined with its ostentatious behavior has, however, helped to precipitate the cao vit gibbon’s sharp decline. Though no longer a significant factor today, hunters posed a serious threat to the gibbons in the past, easily locating them in the forest.

“Such pressures have been compounded more recently by environmental changes to which the gibbon is unable to adapt; livestock overgrazing, firewood collection and encroaching agriculture are all contributing to the ongoing loss and fragmentation of its traditional habitat, jeopardizing the cao vit gibbon’s survival.”

Watch this FFI video to see and hear the cao vit gibbons in their habitat:

Along with the Hainan gibbon, the sister species from which it has recently split, the cao vit gibbon is one of the two most endangered apes in the cao vit gibbon world, FFI says.

The species formerly ranged across much of China and Vietnam. Today only an estimated 110 individuals remain, confined to the karst limestone forest along the China-Vietnam border.

The species was considered extinct until an FFI-led team discovered a small remnant sub-population in Vietnam’s Cao Bang Province in 2002.

FFI has been working to conserve the species since that first group was found. “We have established community groups on both sides of the border to patrol and protect the gibbon’s habitat. In addition, by working with local people, we are identifying and implementing simple and cost-effective measures to relieve pressure on the forest, such as providing villagers with fuel-efficient stoves,” the charity says.

“In fact, the cao vit gibbon is acting as a valuable flagship species, helping to secure protected area designation for the biologically rich, but threatened, karst limestone forest on which its survival depends.”

Additional information:

Transboundary Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Project (FFI)

25 Most Endangered Primates Named (National Geographic News picture gallery)

Extinction Risk for 1 in 3 Primates, Study Says (National Geographic News)