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Author Topic: Gibbons: dead or alive?  (Read 1857 times)


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« on: 18 July 2011, 13:16:58 »


Largest population of endangered gibbon species discovered in Vietnam

Critically endangered the northern white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) has just seen a major boost to it’s numbers following a survey in Vietnam. The new population is estimated at 455 animals and comprises over 65% of the known global population. The new population which is made up of 130 groups is believed to be the only sustainable population left.

Multi agency researchers listened to gibbon songs.
The survey undertaken by researchers from Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International, Arcus Foundation and Sprague-Nowak SE Asia Biodiversity Initiative in the Pu Mat National Park on the north central coast of Vietnam used auditory surveying. By using the morning calls of the species the researchers were able to estimate the size of the gibbons.

The northern white-cheeked crested gibbon was once widespread across Vietnam, Laos and China. It’s now thought to be extinct in China as no records of sightings have been made since 1990 despite surveying work being undertaken in Yunnan and other provinces.

85% of northern white-cheeked crested gibbons lost in 45 years.
It’s believed that the gibbon has lost close to 85% of it’s population over the last 45 years due to hunting and habitat loss so this newly discovered self-sustaining population is a major boost to the conservation of the species.

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. This is an extraordinarily significant find, and underscores the immense importance of protected areas in providing the last refuges for the region’s decimated wildlife”.

Pu Mat National Park has only know sustainable population.
Conservation International have spent 3 years in Vietnam researching the species and have had limited success until they moved their census studies to Pu Mat National Park where this population was discovered.

To put the size of the new population into context with other populations in Vietnam you can compare it’s 455 individuals in 130 groups with Pu Huong National Park that has less than 10 groups and Pu Hoat National Park which has only 3 groups remaining. Group sizes of three gibbon groups from Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces (southern part of north Vietnam) were specified as 3, 3, and 4 individuals.

While the species could still be found in Yunnan, China the average group size was down to between 3 and 4 individuals. These low numbers of individuals in groups obviously means that the groups were not able to sustain themselves.

Ben Rawson, regional primate expert for Conservation International, who has led the gibbon research project, explained: “We are extremely excited about this discovery. Pu Mat was already important for its great diversity of species and for its benefits to the surrounding communities, and now it is a top priority for global gibbon conservation.”

Rawson continued, “The fact that we are excited about the discovery of only 130 groups of northern white-cheeked crested gibbons is indicative of the state of this species and crested gibbons generally; they are some of the most endangered species in the world. It’s important to remember though that conservation in Pu Mat National Park is vital not just for biodiversity, but for its benefits to people also as this is a watershed which provides water for 50,000 people vital for drinking and agriculture.”

Celebrations of gibbon discovery could be short-lived
While the new discovery is something to celebrate, the celebrations could be short-lived. the gibbons have survived so well because of the remoteness of their habitat. that could soon all change. in order to increase the security of their borders and make them easier to control Vietnam has plans to install roads right through the gibbon habitat.

Not only could this fragment the habitat and put pressure on the gibbons but the new roads will make poaching much easier and the roads will also increase the opportunities for development – both legal and illegal.

Primatologist Luu Tuong Bach, a consultant to CI, who led field surveys, added: “‘We don’t think we can stop the roads, so the best solution is targeted gibbon protection in key areas for this population. The major issue will be the hunting of these gibbons that were previously protected by the harsh terrain; so gun control will be vital. Without direct protection in Pu Mat National Park, it is likely that Vietnam will lose this species in the near future.”

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