Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have been coordinating preparation of a national action plan with the Division of Forest Resource Conservation within the Department of Forestry for the conservation of gibbons in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).
Paul Insua-Cao, FFI’s China – Indochina Primate Programme Manager said, “Native to the forests of Southeast Asia, gibbons are considered to be among nature’s greatest acrobats. Throughout their range gibbons are under considerable threat, often restricted to isolated patches of forest within a region with some of the highest human population densities in the world.”
Altogether six species of gibbon are known from Lao PDR, among 18 species globally. Of particular conservation significance are crested gibbons, of which there are four species in Lao PDR. This is the most endangered genus of gibbons and they are found almost exclusively east of the Mekong River, also in Cambodia, China and Vietnam.
“The aim of this action plan is to have gibbon populations in priority areas fully protected and the gibbon status for each species improving by 2020,” Mr Insua-Cao continued.
Achieving this goal is a considerable challenge within a climate of rapid economic development and natural resource depletion in Lao PDR. Hunting is another challenge that needs serious attention. This is the main threat to gibbons as Lao PDR has larger areas of intact forest than its neighbouring countries.
A combination of improved enforcement and raised awareness are crucial to protect gibbons in Lao PDR. Already though, there is traditional appreciation of gibbons in Lao PDR among rural communities, for several reasons, including enjoyment of their entrancing calls or common beliefs that gibbons are manifestations of spirits in the forest.
To achieve the goals of the gibbon conservation action plan, priority locations have been identified for each gibbon species. At some of these locations, gibbons are already receiving attention to ensure their long-term protection. It is hoped that the approval of this action plan will lead to greater support for gibbon conservation at all priority sites throughout the country, to improve the chances for survival of some of the world’s most endangered primates.
Given sufficient support and interest, FFI and IUCN believe that achieving the goal of the National Gibbon Conservation Action Plan for Lao PDR is certainly feasible.