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The survivors: largest remaining group of endangered gibbons discovered

The largest surviving population of northern white-cheeked crested gibbons (Nomascus leucogenys), has been found in Vietnam. Adult female with baby and adult male. © Terry Whittaker
An adult male, northern white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys). © Terry Whittaker

Scientists have discovered the largest surviving population of the critically endangered white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys), counting around 455 individuals in a Vietnamese national park.

The white-cheeked crested gibbon once lived throughout China, Laos and Vietnam, but the latest group discovered is the only confirmed viable population of this species left in the world.

Threatened by hunting, logging and urban development, the species is one of the world’s most endangered gibbons and the population has declined by at least 80% over the past 45 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, said the northern white-cheeked gibbon is on the brink of extinction so the latest discovery, made in Vietnam’s Pu Mat National Park, was particularly exciting.

“This is an extraordinarily significant find, and underscores the immense importance of protected areas in providing the last refuges for the region’s decimated wildlife,” he said in a statement released by green group Conservation International.

However, authorities plan to build major access roads through the gibbons’ habitat, the group said.

Conservation International said gibbons, unlike most primates, are monogamous and mate for life. They sing to attract a partner and sing to each other to maintain the relationship.

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