Chan, B.P.L., Fellowes, J.R., Geissmann, T. and Zhang, J. (eds.) (2005). Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the Hainan Gibbon -Version I (Last Updated November 2005). Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden Technical Report No. 3. KFBG, Hong Kong SAR, iii + 33 pp.

Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the Hainan Gibbon - Version I (Last Updated November 2005)

Chan, B.P.L., Fellowes, J.R., Geissmann, T. and Zhang, J. (eds.)

ISBN 962-8869-27-2, 2005, 33 pages, 4 figures, 3 tables.
Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden Technical Report No. 3.
KFBG, Hong Kong SAR

Available from:
China Programme
Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden
Lam Kam Road, Tai Po, New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel:(852) 2483 7174
Fax:(852) 2483 1877

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Executive Summary

This report presents the results of a comprehensive status survey and the first workshop for the conservation of the Hainan Gibbon. Hainan Gibbon is one of five gibbon taxa currently known to occur in China, and is endemic to Hainan. It has a social structure similar to other gibbons in that individuals live in small social groups and occupy territories, which they advertise by characteristic morning songs. This gibbon was once widespread in the tropical forest of Hainan Island, but following protracted deforestation and hunting it is now confirmed only from Bawangling National Nature Reserve, which was established as a nature reserve in 1980 with the main objective to conserve the gibbons and their habitat.

According to past studies, the gibbon population at Bawangling recovered from just seven individuals in two groups in the early 1980s to 23 individuals in four groups in 1998. To update the status, a comprehensive survey was conducted in October 2003. With training and survey methodology provided by Thomas Geissmann of Zürich University, funding and coordination by Bawangling National Nature Reserve (BNNR), Bawangling Forestry Bureau (BFB), Hainan Wildlife Conservation Centre of Hainan Forestry Department (HWCC), Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG) and South China Institute of Endangered Animals (SCIEA), human resources from Hainanís nature reserves, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) China, Beijing and Kunming Institute of Zoology (Chinese Academy of Sciences), it was a truly collaborative effort. The 16 survey teams systematically covered all potential gibbon habitats in the ca. 300-km2 BNNR over a 16-day period (14-29 October 2003).

The survey was able to confirm only a total of 13 gibbons. These included two family groups; one group was found to contain six individuals (including two infants), another five (including one infant), with two additional solitary adult males detected by their solo songs. While there was no instance when both groups and both solitary males were audible from a single listening point at the same time (crested gibbon groups avoid starting and ending song bouts simultaneously), it is safe to assume from their locations that the two solitary males detected are different from the 11 animals observed in the two groups. A group of three individuals has occasionally been sighted by researchers and reserve staff in recent years; it is possible that one of the two solitary males recorded may in fact represent a third group, but the present results precluded a firm conclusion. In December 2004, a baby was born in Group B, making the world total of Hainan Gibbons to 14 individuals at present. The population is restricted to the severely fragmented primary forest around Futouling, of which less than 15 km2 is suitable gibbon habitat. The result indicates that this endemic ape is on the brink of extinction.

A workshop on Hainan Gibbon Conservation was held in Bawangling Town during 29-31 October 2003 to formulate a conservation strategy. Representatives from local authorities, NGOs and research institutions participated. Presentations were given by gibbon researchers and local stakeholders on the first day, enhancing participantsí understanding of the gibbon and the problems it faces. The second day started by site visits to learn more about the reserve environment and the surrounding communities, followed by open discussion on problems and opportunities. The final day was spent converging on conclusions and recommendations through further discussion.

Although hunting of gibbons in BNNR is reported to have stopped in the past decade, gunshots were heard regularly and illegal trapping and collecting of forest products were evident during the survey. Other indirect disturbances, such as road and hydropower station construction, and frequent human activities in the protected area (e.g. road traffic and management of plantations) probably disturb gibbon behaviour and may affect their long-term prospects. Other potential threats associated with small population size, for example reduced mate choice, heightened impacts of disease and intraspecific aggression, and impaired fitness due to low genetic diversity, may also be significant limitations on population recovery. Acritical review of all known factors possibly responsible for the stagnation of the gibbon population in Bawangling revealed that suboptimal habitat quality might be the most likely key threat.

Despite the strong regulatory framework in place, participants unanimously agreed that the gibbon is under immense pressure from the high human population residing in and around Bawangling; urgent multidisciplinary measures need to be taken for the gibbons to survive another half-century. Less certain was precisely why the gibbon population has remained at such a low level. Factors likely to be important in limiting recovery include the limited availability of optimal habitat, and ongoing hunting and habitat disturbance by people, coupled with the limited capacity of BNNR to overcome threats. These factors call for action on many fronts.

The following actions, already under way or planned by one or more partners, will form the basis of a conservation action plan:

(a) Continue and intensify monitoring of the gibbon population in BNNR.
(b) Reinforce patrolling effectiveness by provision of appropriate equipment to prevent all harmful human activities (e.g. hunting, logging, forest clearance and infrastructure developments) in areas likely to be used by gibbons.
(c) Afforest degraded habitats in strategic locations with tree species valuable to gibbons.
(d) Understand the direct threats to gibbon survival.
(e) Locate any additional gibbons surviving in Hainan.
(f) Instigate a visionary strategy of ecological restoration in the enlarged reserve area.
(g) Build the capacity of BNNR to conserve the Hainan Gibbon and the forest ecosystem as a whole.
(h) Implement a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the Hainan Gibbon and efforts being made to conserve it.

Workshop participants from Bawangling and Changjiang County also discussed the problems created by activities of former loggers, indigenous minority people and other residents living in and around the reserve, and the need to provide alternative, sustainable livelihoods. It was agreed that this was beyond the immediate scope of the present workshop, but that greater collective understanding of human activities and aspirations would help in both gibbon conservation and the resolving of general conflicts between biodiversity conservation and human development.

The Hainan Gibbon is the most critically endangered ape on earth, and its survival depends on the habitat integrity of mature forest. Hainan Gibbon is also an ěumbrella speciesî for the tropical forest of Hainan, whose continued survival also tells us that the forest and its biota, time-tested guardians of Hainanís water, air and soil, are in a healthy state. We call upon the governments of China and Hainan to recognise the value of the Hainan Gibbon as a flagship species for conservation; we urge the people of Hainan and China to recognise it as an irreplaceable national treasure. The present partners, including KFBG, FFI China, SCIEA, East China Normal University (ECNU), Zoological Society of Paris (ZSP) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), are determined to work together in support of BNNR, Changjiang County and Baisha County to protect this unique ape.


I. Acronyms and Abbreviations
II. List of Contributors (in alphabetical order by surname)
Executive Summary
1. Introduction
2. Taxonomy of the Hainan Gibbon
3. Biology of Hainan Gibbon
4. Historical Changes in the Status and Distribution of Hainan Gibbon
5. Bawangling National Nature Reserve (BNNR)
6. The New Status Survey - Methods and Results
Aims and Methods
7. First Workshop for Hainan Gibbon Conservation
8. Major Constraints on the Recovery of Hainan Gibbons
Reduced Forest Quality
Human Pressures
Limitations in Reserve Management and Funding Allocation
Small Population Size
9. The Hainan Gibbon Conservation Action Plan for the 21th Century
10. References
11. Appendices
Appendix 1. Example of Survey Data Sheet
Appendix 2. Workshop Agenda
Appendix 3. Brief Workshop Report


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