CITES: Appendix I
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IUCN Red List: N. leucogenys: CR
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Key: CR = Critically endangered
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)
CONSERVATION THREATS & POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS
Threat: Human Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation
Increasing pressure on the forests for fuelwood collection, human
settlement, agricultural production, and commercial timber extraction
threaten the white-cheeked gibbon throughout its range (Geissmann et al.
2000). Gibbons are strictly arboreal and depend on stretches of forest
to move between food patches, therefore fragmentation and degradation
seriously inhibit the natural behaviors of these animals. Human
population growth in all three of the white-cheeked gibbon's range
countries exacerbates the problems of habitat destruction. In China, where the range is already small and the
population is classified as highly endangered, massive human
population growth and encroachment as well as commercial logging
endeavors are gravely threatening the last white-cheeked gibbons in that
country (Geissmann et al. 2000; Zhang et al. 2002). In Laos, natural
habitat is more abundant, but with no legal protection of this land the
gibbons are likely to fall prey to the same pressures as in China and
Population censusing is vital to the protection of white-cheeked
gibbons. Along with a broader understanding of the range area of these
apes, protection must be extended to their habitats as soon as possible.
The combination of lack of understanding of their range coupled with
habitat degradation could lead to the annihilation of the species in a
short amount of time. Immediate protection of the area where they range
in China is necessary to save that population. Rather than ranging in a
"paper park," there should be some enforcement of protected area status.
Moreover, the Laotian population should be surveyed and protected as it
is likely this is currently the largest and least affected population of
white-cheeked gibbons (Geissmann et al. 2000).
Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)
Another salient threat to white-cheeked gibbon survival is the hunting
and collection of apes for food, the pet trade, and medicinal purposes (Geissmann et al.
2000). The Laotian population is particularly threatened by poaching
for the pet trade and the demand for gibbons in the Chinese and Thai
markets is not decreasing (Geissmann et al. 2000). Being hunted for
food is inextricably linked to collection for the pet trade because a
poacher that shoots an adult male and female is likely to collect at
least one immature gibbon for sale, but may catch up to four, because of
the social structure of gibbons (Leighton 1987). By massacring entire
family groups, poachers can have very significant impacts on the overall
population in a short amount of time.
Establishing protected areas that are effectively guarded against
poachers and other illegal incursions into the forest may alleviate the
hunting and collection pressure on gibbons across their range.
Decreasing the demand in the Thai and Chinese markets through education
programs and public awareness campaigns may also help decrease the
wildlife trade in this region. Moreover, cracking down on animal
smugglers by decreasing the fluidity by which they cross borders could
also help decrease the booming animal trade in Southeast Asia. Where
gibbons are hunted for food, alternate protein sources could be provided
through development programs, and local pride for such rare animals could
be facilitated through education programs. Survey projects could be
established that would serve two purposes: the evaluation and identification of
the population and distribution of white-cheeked gibbons and the development of employment opportunities for local people as field assistants.
Threat: Intrinsic Factors
Inbreeding may have negative effects on the survival of small
populations of gibbons (Leighton 1987). Because of their dispersal
patterns, neighboring groups of gibbons have some likelihood of being
related. Moreover, where population density is high or suitable habitat
is limited because of habitat degradation young males and females are
less likely to be able to establish their own territories and they may
range closely to their natal territories. It has been observed in some species of gibbon that when a male or female is widowed, the offspring of the opposite sex inherits the territory and mating may occur between parent and offspring (Leighton 1987). Some potential problems with inbreeding that may affect population viability include genetic drift
and deleterious allele fixation within the population.
If a population is restricted to a small fragment of forest and
dispersal opportunities are limited or if the population density is so
high that territories are not available, inbreeding may pose a problem.
Protecting wide swaths of forest such that white-cheeked gibbons can
disperse and establish territories may decrease the chance of inbreeding
Threat: Human Disturbance
Human settlement and fuelwood collection are increasing in this area
because of high population growth (Geissmann et al. 2000). Dependence
on forest products increases as human populations come into increasing
contact with the forest frontier and gibbon habitat suffers as a result.
Establishing protected areas immediately as well as enforcing the
protected area status of parks may decrease human pressure on forests.
Establishing research sites in villages that can involve communities in
surveys and other research endeavors may also help in mitigating the
burdens on the forest through alternate revenue generation and public
awareness. Development programs that create alternate fuel sources and
food programs may decrease fuelwood collection and agricultural
LINKS TO MORE ABOUT CONSERVATION
ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN Nomascus leucogenys CONSERVATION
Content last modified: December 1, 2010
Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Alan Mootnick.
Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2010 December 1. Primate Factsheets: White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/white-cheeked_gibbon/cons>. Accessed 2016 February 12.