The cao vit gibbon, also known as the eastern black crested gibbon, was rediscovered by FFI Vietnamese scientists in 2002 in a small fragmented forest of Trung Khanh district, Cao Bang province, on the border with China. Conservation efforts by FFI and partners helped the gibbon population stabilise and increase, with no hunting or major habitat destruction over the last 15 years. The population has risen from 110 in 2007 to around 130 in 2016.

Today, with only about 130 individuals remaining, the cao vit gibbon is one of the most threatened primates in the world and is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Believed to be confined to a single location on the border between Vietnam and China, it is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, mainly due to fuelwood collection and free-grazing livestock. FFI has been working with local partners since the rediscovery of the gibbons to set up community-based patrol groups, establish protected areas for key gibbon habitat and reduce threats in surrounding buffer zones.

Today, communities are able to actively participate in the management of their local forest thanks to an advisory committee set up as part of this work. In 2012, governments in both Vietnam and China signed an agreement to strengthen transboundary cooperation to conserve this threatened and charismatic primate.

FFI is analysing the species’ population viability to forecast population health and risk of extinction, and to ascertain whether the area of forest that currently harbours the cao vit gibbon can support a growing population.