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The western black crested gibbon is one of the most threatened primates in the world and a target species of the primate conservation work of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in the Asia-Pacific region.
This species is listed as globally Critically Endangered, with fewer than 1,400 individuals remaining in the world, most of which are in Yunnan Province in China, while small populations remain in north-western Vietnam and north-western Laos.
It is one of the most northerly gibbon species with some populations living in sub-tropical forests on mountains reaching up to altitudes of 2,000m. So unlike most gibbons they need to tolerate cold winters. Historically it probably ranged even further north into central China.
In Yunnan Province, China, two nature reserves, Wuliangshan and Ailaoshan, hold about 1,000 individuals in more than 270 family groups. At these two locations, FFI is providing technical support and coordinating activities to strengthen protection of the gibbons. FFI has also coordinated preparation of a conservation action plan for this species across all locations where it is known in Yunnan Province.
In Vietnam, field conservation measures for the gibbon have been ongoing for nearly a decade in the Hoang Lien Mountains. In this remote location, the nation’s only potentially viable population is known to persist with about 60 individuals in 20 family groups. Hunting and forest loss remain a threat, but FFI’s community-based approach to conservation appears to be turning around the fortune of this species in at least part of its range.
In Laos, FFI has been supporting local partners at one protected area in the north-west of the country, where the only viable population in the country is known to persist. A recent survey reveals that this location appears to have a larger population than previously estimated, although hunting is a growing threat.