Hope for the Hainan Gibbon
This little primate, known for his intelligence, has recently seen hope in his rehabilitation. Being the victim of deforestation, there were only 10 gibbons left on Chinese territory. Today, their numbers continue to increase.
Collateral Victims of Global Warming
The species live in a small region of the tropical island of Hainan, in southern China. In 2003 there were only 10 in the world in the Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Today, the species is recognized as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Indeed, it is not only an extremely fragile family of primates but also a very rare animal species. But this wasn’t always the case.
Biological researchers estimate that there used to be more than 2,000 gibbons in Asia. However, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, the Chinese government’s policy of massive and accelerated industrialization led to significant deforestation of the southern islands. Especially the island of Hainan. The gibbons gradually lost territory and could no longer find fruit trees to feed on. Poaching has added to deforestation. Gibbons are sometimes still sold on the black market or illegally killed for their meat. Today, the species is considered so fragile that a natural disaster hitting the island (such as a typhoon, for example) would be able to erase all traces of the Hainan gibbons.
However, biologists and members of the Kadoorie Conservation group have recently been able to restore hope for the gibbons’ future. The number of monkeys continues to increase.
An Umbrella Species
In just over 10 years, Hainan’s gibbons have tripled their populations and today there are 30 individuals on the island. Thanks to conservation efforts, but also thanks to the revegetation of the area. Indeed, after the planting of more than 80,000 fruit trees including fig and lychees trees, not only the monkeys have regained their territory, but also their pantry. For scientists in the area, the goal is to be able to increase the population by more than 50 individuals. Thus, the species could be considered simply “endangered” by IUCN and any threat of extinction would be eliminated.
Extending the territory of the gibbons also has an extremely positive impact on the rest of the fauna of the territory. Considered an “umbrella species,” saving gibbons means conserving so many different aspects of the land that many endangered species may well be off the hook. The gibbons, but also their entire environment, could, therefore, be well on the way to recovery.
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Sources: Kadoorie Farm & Botanical Garden, IUCN, Red List, South China Morning Post, The Mind Unleashed
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