Hainan Gibbon Research and Conservation

To study and promote the survival of Hainan gibbons in China


The Hainan gibbon, Hylobates (Nomascus) hainanus, considered either a subspecies of the black gibbon or a species in its own right, is without any doubt the most threatened primate on Earth. In the 1950s, more than 2000 individuals could be counted on the island of Hainan south of China. 30 years later, deforestation had eliminated  more than 650.000 ha of forest from the map, and there were only two places left where the Hainan gibbon still could be observed: the Futouling and the Limuling Mountains. At both places the animals were under heavy pressure from poaching. In 1988, it was found that only 21 gibbons survived at the Bawangling Reserve, and Chinese conservationists were desperately looking for support to initiate a conservation programme. In March 2001 the Forestry Office of the Province of Hainan solicited scientific assistance to identify the reason why the gibbon population of Bawangling Reserve did not increase, in spite of the protection of game wardens in the reserve.


Since the end of 2001, a research and conservation programme on the Hainan gibbon has been undertaken by the Zoological Society of Paris, in collaboration with the East China Normal University and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. The status of the population is critical, since only 15 individuals could be confirmed to survive in the Bawangling National Nature Reserve of the island of Hainan. Habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as possible poaching within the reserve, have been identified as the major threat.


The project intends


  • to raise funds for the reinforcement of monitoring gibbon groups by the staff of BNNR and rebuilt one workstation,
  • to specify the population structure of the gibbons’ small population and to cartography the fragmentation of the habitat, in order to propose connections between patches of suitable habitat for the expansion of the population.


A programme of involvement and education of local minorities is also planned.


WAZA Conservation Project 04014 is operated by the Zoological Society of Paris in collaboration with the East China Normal University and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. The project is supported by Apenheul Primate Park, CERZA Lisieux, the zoos of Doué-la-Fontaine, Mulhouse and Thoiry, the Friends of Mulhouse Zoo, CEPA (Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales), ZGAP (Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz), Zodiac Nature Watch and the Gibbon Conservation Center.


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