China and Vietnam proclaim havens for gibbons, rare monkeys

Hope for the survival of two of the world’s most endangered primates has been renewed after China and Vietnam created sanctuaries for them last month.

One reserve, in Khau Ca forest, Ha Giang Province, northern Vietnam, contains 90 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus avunculus), the UK-based conservation charity Fauna & Flora International said in a news statement this week.


FFI Photo by Xi Zhinong, Wild China

The new 2000-hectare [5,000-acre] nature reserve also supports a relatively pristine subtropical forest with a wide range of other wildlife like macaques, lorises, small carnivores and rare plants, FFI said.

“This new reserve protects the most viable Tonkin snub-nosed monkey population and so represents the species’ best chance for survival,” said Paul Insua-Cao, FFI’s Vietnam Primate Programme Manager. “FFI is proud to have helped to establish the protected area and congratulates the provincial government and local communities on their new nature reserve.”

The other reserve, just across the border in China, more than quadruples the amount of protected forest for the cao vit gibbon (Nomascus nasutus), FFI said.

cao-vit-gibbon-picture 5.jpg

FFI photo of cao vit gibbon by Zhao Chao

“The cao vit gibbon is considered the world’s second most endangered primate and both species are in the top 25 most endangered primates.

“These two protected areas together contain the world’s last cao vit gibbons.”

“The new 6,530-hectare [16,000-acre] Bangliang Nature Reserve, in Guangxi Province, is directly adjacent to Vietnam’s Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Area, which FFI helped to establish in 2007. These two protected areas together contain the world’s last cao vit gibbons.”

“FFI has been encouraging the local government to establish this new reserve ever since the species was discovered in China in 2006,” said Luo Yang, FFI’s China Programme Manager. “The cao vit gibbon currently lives mainly on the Vietnamese side of the border, but it now has the chance to safely extend its population into China. The future for the species now looks much brighter.”

Tonkin snub-nosed monkey picture 6.jpg

FFI photo of Tonkin snub-nosed monkey  by Xi Zhinong, Wild China

There are just 110 cao vit gibbons and around 200 Tonkin snub nosed monkeys left in the world, according to FFI. Both species are listed as Critically Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The main threat to both the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and the cao vit gibbon is habitat-loss. according to FFI.

“They live in rain forests with unique and fragile limestone mountain ecosystems, which are suffering from the collection of firewood, livestock grazing, agricultural encroachment, all of which stem from poverty.”


FFI photo of cao vit gibbon by Zhao Chao

FFI engages with local communities to reduce the threats to the two primates. For example, simple and cost-effective measures such as providing villagers with fuelefficient stoves are helping to relieve pressure on the cao vit gibbon’s habitat, the charity said.

“In addition, FFI has established community groups to patrol and protect the forest.

“The organization was a critical player in the creation of the two new nature reserves. The in-country teams worked with Chinese and Vietnamese authorities to ensure local people were consulted during the protected area planning process.”

FFI will continue to support conservation in both new protected areas by monitoring biodiversity, facilitating community engagement, helping to improve local livelihoods, enhancing the local conservation authorities’ skills and resources and also encouraging trans-boundary cooperation for the cao vit gibbon.

Watch this FFI video of cao vit gibbons in their habitat: 

Video by FFI, posted on YouTube

Additional information:

Transboundary Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Project (FFI)

25 Most Endangered Primates Named (National Geographic News picture gallery)

Extinction Risk for 1 in 3 Primates, Study Says (National Geographic News)


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn