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Remembering the Forgotten Ape

A Blog from IUCN Member, the Arcus Foundation. Read the full article, Remembering the Forgotten Ape: Conservationists Strengthen Efforts to Protect Endangered Gibbons.

May 9, 2024

Gibbons, with their melodious calls and acrobatic swings through treetop canopies, occupy a unique niche in ape conservation efforts. Due to their small size and elusive nature, they are far less studied and consequently less understood than other apes. This lack of information has significant conservation implications, especially as gibbons face severe threats from habitat destruction, illegal trafficking, and human encroachment.

Dr. Susan Cheyne of the Borneo Nature Foundation highlighted this fact during a presentation at the International Primatological Society conference in Kuching, Malaysia, last year. “[Gibbons] don’t receive the same amount of attention as the big apes. Gibbons are often unseen and forgotten. It’s difficult to come up with conservation action if we don’t know much about these species.”

Conservation efforts are particularly critical for gibbons. Of the 20 recognized species spanning 11 Asian countries, five are listed as Critically Endangered, 14 as Endangered, and one as Vulnerable on the most recent Red List of Threatened Species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The most endangered of all apes, the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus) in China, numbers approximately 38 individuals.

Yet grantee and conservation partners are working to address information gaps and build partnerships to better protect these small apes. For example, conservation partners helped launch the Global Gibbon Network (GGN) with the aim of building awareness, knowledge, and resources for gibbon conservation. And members of the Idu Mishmi Indigenous community in India’s Dibang Valley declared in 2022 that 70 square kilometers of their ancestral lands be designated a community conserved area (CCA). “We plan to conserve, research, manage and use sustainably—in accordance with Idu Mishmi tradition, informed by scientific knowledge, and with an eye to our rapidly changing world,” the declaration states.

Read more about the challenges facing gibbons, their cultural significance for Indigenous communities, and the work being conducted to preserve these species by reading our latest blog, Remembering the Forgotten Ape, featured in our upcoming 2023 Annual Report.

Arcus Foundation

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