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Primate Conservation

 
Coordinators:  Dean Anderson and Nancy Ruggeri, Department of Zoology,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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ACTION PLAN FOR CONSERVATION OF THE GIBBONS OF THE WULIANG
MOUNTAINS SINO-DUTCH FOREST CONSERVATION AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT 
PROJECT YUNNAN PROVINCE, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF
CHINA

20 MARCH 2000

Authors:

William V. Bleisch, Ph.D.
China Exploration and Research Society
Xinxiang 9799 Fenxiang 149
Beijing 100101
People's Republic of China

Jiang Xuelong
Kunming Institute of Zoology
Academia Sinica
Kunming, Yunnan
People's Republic of China

For copies of the full text or for more information, contact:

Co-Director Bram Busstra or
Co-Director Wang Weiming
Sino-Dutch Forest Conservation and Community Development Project
Yunnan Department of Forestry
Kunming, Yunnan
People's Republic of China

Acknowledgements:
Much of the information and most of the ideas in this action plan
resulted from an intensive two day workshop held in Kunming
on November 2 and 3, 1999, which was facilitated by Bram Busstra and
Jeannette van Rijsoort (FCCDP), and organised by
Long Yongcheng.  Other participants at that workshop included Professor
Zhang Yongzu (Beijing Institute of Geography),
Professor Ma Shilai (Kunming Institute of Zoology), Zang Xingwei
(Jingdong Wuliangshan Nature Reserve), Director Gao
(Nanjian Wuliangshan Nature Reserve), Cao Yigong (Si Mao Prefecture
Forestry Bureau), Wang Weiming, He Peikung, and
Willem Quist (FCCDP).  Additional information and ideas came from three
internet participants, Lori Sheeran, California State
University at Riverside, Lan Daoying, University of Liverpool and Thomas
Geissmann, Zurich University.  Willem Quist and
Jeannette van Rijsoort also provided extensive and valuable comments on
an earlier draft of the Action Plan.  This Action Plan
is one output of the Sino-Dutch Forest Conservation and Community
Development Project, made possible by a generous
contribution from the people of the Netherlands.


SUMMARY:

The primary objective of this action plan is to promote the conservation
of the Black Crested Gibbons of the Wuliang Mountains in the wild.

The Black Crested Gibbons (Hylobates concolor) is one of at least four
species of gibbons known to occur in China.   Six sub-species have been
described, including H. c. jingdongensis, which is restricted to the Wuliang
Mountains.

Gibbons were once widely distributed in China, from the east coast to
the border with Myanmar.  They are now restricted to small patches of
remaining habitat in Yunnan Province, and to one small population on
Hainan Island.  The Wuliang and Ailao Mountains in Yunnan Province
are probably the best remaining opportunities to save the Black Crested
Gibbon in the wild .

Black Crested Gibbons, similar to other gibbons, live in territorial
groups of about 3 to 5 individuals.  They sing duets on most mornings,
and defend territories in home ranges of 50 to 200 ha.  Unlike other gibbons,
Black Crested Gibbons may be polygynous, with two or more breeding females
living together with a single male.  They probably prefer to eat 
fruit, but their
diet contains a large proportion of leaves at least for part of the year.

Our estimate of the current total population of the gibbons of Wuliang
Mountains is 215 to 450 individuals. The present distribution of forest
in the Wuliang Mountains suggests that remaining habitat there for Black
Crested Gibbons probably does not exceed 20,000 ha, of which less than
15,000 ha are currently protected.  Much of the habitat is severely
fragmented,
so that the gibbon population is broken up into several subpopulations,
each isolated one from another.

A strong regulatory framework is already in place to protect gibbons and
their habitat, including a ban on all hunting and establishment of nature
reserves to protect gibbon habitat.  Jingdong Wuliangshan Nature Reserve
(29,200 ha) was specifically established to protect gibbons and their habitat,
and the adjacent Nanjian Wuliangshan Nature Reserve (7,583 ha) also protects
gibbon habitat.  However, substantial gaps still remain between policies
and their implementation.

The geographical range of the gibbons in China has been contracting for
as long as we have historical records.  Despite progress in 
protection of forests,
both within and outside of nature reserves, habitat loss remains a major
threat
to the Black Crested Gibbons.  Hunting was formerly a serious threat 
to the survival
of all gibbon species, but in the past decade, hunting of gibbons in 
Jingdong County
does not seem to have occurred.

Gibbons are very sensitive to disturbance, which can disrupt their 
behaviour for
several days.  Human disturbances in the Wuliang Mountains have 
included hunting,
logging, and construction of roads and power lines, including 
blasting.  It is likely that
many of these disturbances have disrupted gibbon daily activities, and
may have even led to site abandonment in areas where disturbance is regular.

Even if the total population of gibbons in the Wuliang Mountains was
well protected and large enough to give confidence in its viability, there may
be a hidden risk of extinction.  Gibbons rarely if ever travel on the 
ground and
even small gaps in the forest canopy can create a barrier to their travel.
Deforestation can easily break up a population of gibbons into isolated
subpopulations, which may affect the survival of the population in 
several ways.
One is to limit the availability of suitable mates for unmated 
gibbons.  This will
slow the rate of reproduction of the population and decrease its resiliency to
disturbance. Isolated small sub-populations of gibbons may also experience
inbreeding depression, as relatives are forced to mate with relatives 
because of
lack of access to suitable mates.  Habitat fragmentation can also lead to
local
losses of genetic variability, which may lead to a loss of the 
ability of the sub-populations
to survive in the face of environmental change or disease.  We must 
consider the possibility
that the Black Crested Gibbons of the Wuliang Mountains are already 
under serious threat
from the effects of habitat fragmentation.

The population of Black Crested Gibbons can be considered to be well on
the road to recovery if ;
* there is no further decline in the population, and a substantial
increase is expected in the future as degraded habitats recover, and
* there are more than 250 mature individuals in at least two populations
that are not fragmented by barriers to gibbon dispersal.
Wuliang Mounatin and Ailao Mountain Nature Reserves are probably the
best candidates for achieving this goal.

To meet these criteria for recovery, it will be necessary to prevent any
further hunting of gibbons and any further loss of gibbon
habitat.  It will also be necessary to promote habitat recovery and to
facilitate exchange of genes between gibbons isolated in
many small habitat fragments.

There are several major constraints to countering the threats to gibbon
survival.  There are still numerous gaps in knowledge
about the Black Crested Gibbons that hinder planning of effective
management tactics.  Secondly, nature reserve management is
hampered by lack of training, lack of equipment and chronic lack of
funds.  This results in part from a lack of support from
decision-makers, arising from their lack of awareness of the importance
of conservation and the requirements for making it
effective.  Finally, a lack of awareness and a lack of alternative forms
of livelihood for local people constrain them to continuing
unsustainable practices that destroy and degrade forest habitat.

The major threats at this time are habitat loss, habitat degradation and
habitat fragmentation.  Hunting, while not currently a
major threat, could become so if it begins again.  Lack of information
about gibbons and their habitat, lack of support from
communities and decision-makers, lack of co-ordination and the current
limitations of nature reserve management are all major
constraints that hamper the response to these threats.

To counter the threats to gibbons and solve the constraints, the
following major  strategies and actions are suggested:

1. To fill gaps in knowledge: Surveys, research and monitoring
1.1. Establish research network and reference library in Jingdong Nature
Reserve Management Bureau.
1.2. Review existing information and formulate recommendations.
1.3. Perfect, prioritise and resource the action plan.
1.4. Design training for nature reserve staff and local communities to
increase knowledge and awareness for gibbon
conservation.
1.5. Design training for nature reserve staff on gibbon research and
monitoring.
1.6. Survey population and distribution of Black Crested Gibbons in the
Wuliang Mountains.
1.7 Survey and map gibbon habitat in the Wuliang Mountains.
1.8. Design and initiate long-term monitoring of gibbons
1.9. Prepare research sites for long-term research on Black Crested
Gibbons
1.10. Conduct long-term research on behavioural ecology of gibbons
1.11. Research gibbon conservation genetics

2. To better protect gibbons and gibbon habitat:  Nature reserve
management
2.1. Organise training for nature reserve staff in skills and knowledge
for Black Crested Gibbon conservation
2.2. Incorporate gibbon conservation into nature reserve planning.
2.3. Adjust nature reserve zoning
2.4. Secure adequate staff and financial resources for protection and
conservation actions in the nature reserves
2.5. Prevent and control forest fires in gibbon habitat
2.6. Protect gibbons and gibbon habitat by enforcement
2.7. Protect gibbon habitat by co-management

3. To build support for gibbon conservation:  Awareness building,
conservation education and community development
3.1. Increase support for Black Crested Gibbon conservation among
decision-makers
3.2. Increase awareness about Black Crested Gibbons through schools and
nonformal education
3.3. Increase co-operation with communities for Black Crested Gibbon
conservation through community awareness building.
3.4. Resolve conflict over the hunting ban by addressing wildlife damage
to crops and livestock
3.5. Decrease demand for land resources by providing high production
farmland and technology
3.6. Decrease demand for land resources by providing economic tree crop
technology
3.7. Develop community-based eco-tourism
3.8. Decrease demand for wood by providing alternative technology
3.9. Decrease demand for wood from natural forest by providing fuel-wood
forests

4. To create a supportive policy:  Extensions of protected areas and
co-ordination for gibbon conservation
4.1. Increase co-operation between counties
4.2. Integrate survey results
4.3. Study possible extensions of nature reserves
4.4. Integrate planning for conservation of forests with planning for
conservation of the Black Crested Gibbon and its habitat

5. To expand and connect gibbon populations:  Corridors, links and
habitat rehabilitation
5.1. Determine needs and potential for corridors and expansions of
gibbon habitat
5.2. Decrease demand for land resources by relocation
5.3. Allow natural recovery in lightly damaged areas to expand gibbon
habitat
5.4. Choose forest rehabilitation method and plan
5.5. Experiment with rehabilitation of  forest in critical areas
5.6. Reduce impacts of roads and power lines

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Topics in Primate Conservation is supported by a grant RR00167,
Regional Primate Centers Program, National Center for Research
Resources, The National Institutes of Health.
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