Back in 2002, a beautiful but little-known primate in the remote mountains of northern Vietnam caused something of a conservation sensation.
Named the cao vit gibbon by the Indigenous People after its distinctive call, this charismatic primate and its songs were once so familiar that it featured in many local poems.
Tragically, however, increasing pressure from humans meant that the cao vit gibbons and their haunting songs gradually disappeared from the forests until, eventually, scientists and conservationists around the world feared that they may be extinct in the wild. Then, in 2002, an expedition by Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) Vietnam programme rediscovered a population of 26 individuals in Trung Khanh district, Cao Bang province.
While this event shocked and delighted conservationists all around the world, it was much less of a surprise for the people living there, who could still hear the gibbon’s song echoing in the mountains as they farmed in the valleys near the forests.
Nevertheless, it was clear that urgent action was needed to ensure that this precious population of cao vit gibbons did not disappear like the others before it, so FFI immediately launched a conservation project with great hopes and ambitions for the future of this species.
To ensure success, a comprehensive plan was drawn up that included setting up a community patrol and monitoring team; embarking on further research and surveys; promoting the establishment of a protected area; addressing the ongoing threats to the gibbons and their habitat; setting up livelihood support for the community; and, last but by no means least, raising people’s awareness of the threats to these primates through carefully planned, long-term communication activities.
In the two decades since the remarkable rediscovery of the cao vit gibbon, FFI has been steadfastly singing its own message: protect the cao vit gibbon and the other wildlife with which it shares its forest home!
But how to change the perspectives of local people about the immediate benefits of forest products, and foster a local sense of pride about the fact that this is the only place in the world where the cao vit gibbon can be found? To address this important challenge, the project team has cleverly and creatively integrated these messages into many different communication activities aimed at communities living near the gibbon’s habitat, including adults, students and local authorities.