Conservation workshop discusses restoration of cao vit gibbon habitat

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with scientists, NGOs and the government in China and Vietnam to restore the habitat of the Critically Endangered cao vit gibbon on the Sino-Vietnamese border.

Since 2003, FFI has been working to save this flagship species from extinction. Paul Insua-Cao, FFI China-Indochina Primate Programme Manager said, “With improved protection, the gibbon population appears to be increasing, but with a little over 100 individuals remaining this species still faces a precarious future. The greatest challenge now to ensure the continued growth of the gibbon population is restoration of surrounding degraded forest to provide suitable habitat for gibbon groups.”

Limestone karst mountains

FFI in collaboration with the NGO, the People, Resources and Conservation Foundation, has established a technical working group of scientists from China and Vietnam with specific expertise in gibbon ecology, botany, forestry and habitat restoration on karst.

Mr Insua-Cao said, “Restoring forest on the limestone karst mountains where the gibbons live is challenging because of water shortages and poor soil in the region.

High levels of deforestation and vegetation degradation can lead to a phenomenon known as stone desertification, where the rocky substrate is almost entirely denuded of all vegetation and soil. This is an issue of major concern for Guangxi Province in China.”

Following three days of discussions, the technical working group presented their findings to government staff and other projects from both Vietnam and China at a two day workshop in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Province.

Transboundary cooperation

The workshop culminated on the second day with an agreement between government departments of Cao Bang Province in Vietnam and Guangxi Province in China on strengthening cooperation for conservation of the cao vit gibbon.

This includes regular meetings between government counterparts in Cao Bang and Guangxi Provinces, information sharing and tackling transboundary issues. The workshop was co-hosted by Guangxi Forestry Bureau, who chaired the meeting on transboundary cooperation.

Following the workshop, participants visited a karst forest restoration demonstration site managed by the Guangxi Institute of Botany and funded by the central government of China. At this location various approaches to restoring forest cover have been trialed over the past decade and some valuable lessons have been learned.

Field trials are now underway for habitat restoration in degraded forest around the habitat of the cao vit gibbon. Mr Insua-Cao continued, “This will not only support the recovery of this highly threatened gibbon species, but also conservation of the unique fauna and flora in the biodiversity rich region of Guangxi Province and north-east Vietnam.”