China: Hainan Gibbon
The Hainan gibbon, Nomascus hainanus, is the world’s rarest ape and one of world’s most endangered mammal species. ZSL-UCL PhD student, Jessica Bryant is working to enhance our understanding of Hainan gibbons and improve our conservation efforts for them.
Current population estimates indicate that only one wild population of approximately 23-25 Hainan gibbon individuals now remain. This last surviving population is confined to the extremely limited area of remaining habitat within Bawangling National Nature Reserve, in western Hainan Island, China. There are no known Hainan gibbons in captivity and no other known wild populations in Hainan or elsewhere in China.
This Critically Endangered (IUCN) species has had international legal protection since 2003, and been a Class I Nationally Protected Species under the Chinese Wildlife Protection Law since 1989. Bawangling National Nature Reserve was established in 1980 and expanded in 2003.
These protective measures have focused on protecting Hainan gibbons from recognised threats, such as habitat clearance and poaching. Despite these measures, however, the last Hainan gibbon population has show extremely limited growth over the last 30 years.
The extinction of the Hainan gibbon would represent the first known ape extinction in over 12,000 years (i.e. the Holocene). Unfortunately, at present very little is known about this elusive species. Such a severely limited evidence base is constraining proactive conservation work for the few remaining Hainan gibbons.
Critical conservation research
Young gibbons are born golden, like their mothers, turn black as juveniles until they reach sexual maturity and adult females turn golden again. ZSL PhD student, Jessica Bryant aims to address this knowledge gap. By enhancing our understanding of the Hainan gibbon, she hopes to pave the way for better conservation efforts for them. Jessica is working on the ground in Hainan with the Bawangling National Nature Reserve Management Office and Hong Kong-based NGO Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden to gather new data on the species.
Her work focuses on assessing the spatial requirements and resource use of the species and investigating the last remaining population’s genetic health, including the relatedness between individuals. Through this work, Jessica aims to provide vital insights that will directly inform and improve conservation planning for the species in Bawangling.
If you would like to donate to this conservation project please click here:
Funds will go directly to supporting Jessica’s field and laboratory work on the Hainan gibbon, and ZSL’s ongoing commitment to long-term conservation work for this species.