Geissmann, T. (2014). Gibbons – The singing apes / Gibbons – Die singenden Menschenaffen. Anthropologisches Institut und Museum der Universität Zürich, and Gibbon Conservation Alliance, Zurich, Switzerland, 48 pp. ISBN: 978-3-033-04475-3.

Gibbons in Vietnam: Cover

Gibbons – The singing apes
Gibbons – Die singenden Menschenaffen

Thomas Geissmann

ISBN 978-3-033-04475-3, 2014, Paperback, 48 pages. Anthropologisches Institut und Museum der Universität Zürich, and Gibbon Conservation Alliance, Zurich, Switzerland.

Language: English and German

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From the Introduction

Gibbons are apes. They are more closely related to humans than to macaques, baboons or langurs. Yet, these small apes are far less known and researched than their larger relatives (chimpanzees, gorillas or orangutans).

Gibbons are unique among the apes in many respects, for example in their social life, locomotion, anatomy or their way of communication.

Gibbons live in small family groups consisting of one to six animals. This type of social structure can only be found in approximately 3% of all mammals. Gibbons live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. With their lightweight physique they are adapted to life in the treetops and with their long arms they move acrobatically in brachiation, a unique way of locomotion that is repeatedly being compared to bird flight. Whether on the ground or on thick branches, gibbons do not walk on all fours like most monkeys and apes; they walk upright like humans.

The territorial morning songs of the gibbons are among the most spectacular calls of all mammals. They are often performed as carefully matched duet songs by mated gibbon pairs. Gibbon songs are considered to be the best model for the evolution of human music.

Gibbons are the first apes to which humans developed a close relationship. For more than 2000 years, gibbons have been of particular importance in Chinese culture, where they represent the fabled link between humans and nature and where they are a symbol of eternal life, among other things. They have been the object of worship in numerous paintings and poems.

Today many gibbons are extremely threatened to the point of extinction. Among them we find the rarest apes and, furthermore, even the rarest species of primates. The biggest threats are habitat loss and degradation, hunting and illegal trade. Conserving the gibbons must become a top priority.

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