Scientists warn that multiple species of gibbon are in immediate danger of becoming extinct.
Gibbons are apes, but superficially resemble monkeys more than they do the great apes. Called “lesser apes”, gibbons are not only much smaller than orangutans, but are less studied and receive less attention from the media and conservation groups.
Orangutans, however, engender more sympathy from the public, the media, and the authorities. For this reason, many who deal in illegal primates claim they have to be clandestine about dealing in orangutans. This is not the case with gibbons.
Not only do we know much less about gibbons from a scientific standpoint, but we also spend much less time in conservation efforts to save what are becoming endangered species who may become extinct in our lifetime.
The crested gibbons are the group that is in the most trouble, including the eastern black crested gibbon which has only about 100 members still alive. The eastern black crested gibbon is not only the most endangered species of gibbon, but is likely the most critically endangered primate on the planet.
There are two subspecies of the eastern black crested gibbon. One of those subspecies, the cao vit, is faring better now, thanks to efforts by Flora and Fauna International. This is the one piece of good news for the gibbon.
Many places that have a flourishing primate trade have appropriate laws in place to deal with the criminals, but no incentive to enforce them.
Hopefully news of the gibbon’s plight will increase scrutiny from the international community of countries with illegal primate trades. Incentive to enforce their wildlife laws would start to reign in the black market for gibbons.
Enforcing a ban on selling gibbons is one piece of the puzzle. We also need more scientific knowledge of the gibbons if we want to know how to save them. Groups like FFI and scientists with the International Primatological Society must redouble their efforts to save the gibbons.
In the west, we must recognize that the exotic pet trade – even when it is legal – is bad for animals. Let wild animals be wild animals. Work to protect the habitats of all wildlife, and don’t lock wild animals in cages.
Photo: René Ehrhardt