Gibbons Facing Immediate Extinction

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 and gibbons are both endangered, and are both suffering the effects of the dual dangers of habitat destruction, as well as being highly valued in the illegal Asian pet trade.

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


Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins5 years ago

Alison A, thanks for the primate petition links.

Whenever I hear of another species on the brink of extinction, a part of myself feels as if it has died. Probably because it has. We are all connected, made from the same star debris, and have the same universal spirit flowing through us. The death of one innocent life is the death of all of us.

Janine H.
Janine H7 years ago

This is a very sad story. Other animals has to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy averything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

James Athey
James Athey8 years ago

this is very unfortunate : (
hope we can save this species

Eveline M.
Eveline M8 years ago

I think we have to urgent focus on China , tell China to clear the illegal trade in animal parts . Start petitions to put the pression on .

Adam P.
Adam P8 years ago

I voted. Maybe even in this way I can change something!

Jennifer Hester
Jennifer Hester8 years ago

Jason H., I agree with you, but too many people see exotic animals as pets. These animals need to stay in the wild and they need to be protected.

Alison A.
Alison A8 years ago

Although we want to save the gibbons, there are more people that are intent on harming them than saving them.

The laws need to be enforced and severe punishments should be given which far out weigh the profits that can be made by this illegal trade.

Until the laws are taken seriously by both the traders and the authorities, our hope for these animals (all primates) to still be here is years to come are just futile.

Here are some Care2 petitions which relate to primates.

Michael Branaman
Michael Branaman8 years ago

We have the ability to save all endangered species.

dve d.
aa b8 years ago

save our apes family

Jason H.
Jason H.8 years ago

Exotic "pet" trade? Please -- a pet is an animal who shares our home as a mamber of the family. The dog which follows its human around the house and yard; the cat who strolls across the kitchen countertop to see what its humans are doing; the rat which snuggles on its human's lap.

Do you expect me to believe exotic "pets" share their humans' lives this way? Maybe in a few cases; but I think that mostly, people want these animals as status symbols. Will that ocelot have the run of the house like a domestic cat? Or will it be caged, except when being dragged on its leash to show it off? What does a "pet" gibbon offer that a domesticated pet animal does not?

Let wild animals be wild.