Largest population of rare gibbon discovered in Vietnam
The largest known remaining population of the northern white-cheeked gibbon has been discovered in Vietnam, bringing new hope for this Critically Endangered primate.
Scientists from Conservation International made the discovery in Pu Mat National Park, near the Vietnam-Laos border, in an area of remote, dense forest that has been largely isolated from human activity. By recording the gibbons' loud, territorial 'songs', the team were able to confirm a population of 130 groups, or 455 gibbons in total.
Previous work by Conservation International in other parts of north-central Vietnam had found no population of the northern white-cheeked gibbon larger than a dozen groups. The newly discovered population at Pu Mat National Park is therefore all the more important, as it represents over two thirds of the total population of this species in Vietnam and may be the only viable population left in the world.
The northern white-cheeked gibbon has undergone a precipitous decline over recent decades. Once found in China, Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, it may now be extinct in China, and its status in Lao PDR is not well known. In Vietnam, there may be as few as 200 groups remaining.
The main causes of this decline are deforestation and hunting for food, the pet trade and traditional medicine.
Speaking about the newly discovered population, Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, said, "All of the world's 25 different gibbons are threatened, and none more so than the Indochinese crested gibbons, eight of which, including the northern white-cheeked gibbon, are now on the brink of extinction."
Photo shows male northern white-cheeked gibbon in forest habitat. Credit: Arkive, Terry Whittaker