Conserving the Critically Endangered Northern White-cheeked Gibbon in Vietnam

The northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) is already functionally extinct in China (Fan & Huo 2009), and assessments of populations in Vietnam (Rawson et al 2011) and Laos (Duckworth 2008) conducted by FFI clearly show that few populations are viable. Declines of this Indochinese endemic species are recorded across its range, including in Vietnam. Pu Mat National Park represents one of the last population strongholds for this Critically Endangered species, holding over 130 groups. However, despite formal protection, hunting of gibbons is known to persist in Pu Mat, where they are actively targeted for a primate ‘bone balm’, as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Therefore, the project is extremely time sensitive.
Pu Mat National Park is one of Vietnam’s largest protected areas covering 91,113 hectares. Even in Pu Mat, the gibbon are exceptionally difficult to observe (although their songs are often heard, in the remotest areas). Pu Mat is a also priority area for other species that will benefit from the conservation interventions of this project, including the Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), which was only described in the 1990s, but is close to extinction, with no ‘safety net’ of individuals held in captivity and only extremely rare records from the wild.
The project goal is to secure the biodiversity values of Pu Mat National Park with a focus on the Critically Endangered flagship species of northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys), and enforce “No Kill” zones in the Park.
Specific activities will include: 1. Engaging local communities in forest protection, including supporting community-based conservation teams and awareness campaigns; 2. Support improvement of the enforcement of Pu Mat National Park, including the “No Kill” zones; 3. improve knowledge and capacity for biological monitoring including camera traps, biodiversity baseline surveys and vocalisation monitoring techniques.

Helping Kalaweit to protect gibbons and their habitat in Indonesia.

Kalaweit is a long term and in situ program involved in Gibbons safeguarding on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia). Gibbons are listed under CITES Appendix I and belongs to Apes family (Lower Apes). They are highly endangered because of the destruction of their habitat. In Indonesia forests are destroyed to plant palm oil trees, making impossible for the wildlife to survive especially for tree species like Gibbons. It is an emergency situation as the deforestation is extremely fast. It has increased the illegal wildlife trade and many baby Gibbons are sold as pet on local markets. Kalaweit rescues Gibbons (and other species) from captivity where they are frequently neglected and provide the ones that cannot return to the wild a home, as close as possible to their natural environment, where they can stay. Most of them will never return to the wild for various reasons (disabled, sick, impregnated..). Over 340 Gibbons are sheltered in our 2 centers of Borneo and Sumatra, and to feed them we buy 5 tons of food every week from villagers. We also launched the radio Kalaweit FM, whose programs entertain and educate the population about the protection of nature. We also offer a secure habitat to wild Gibbons with the purchase of forests. We have created 3 reserves for a total of 600 acres (April 2018). We monitor them with equestrian and aerial patrols. Camera traps allows us to identify the species presents in our reserves. For the past years we have released several Siamang families in the wild with success. To ensure all these activities we hire 70 Indonesian employees that come from local communities. For 20 years Kalaweit has been working hard to help Gibbons, and has created close ties with the local people who support us.

Borneo Nature Foundation: Protecting Borneo’s Biodiversity

Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF, previously the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop)) works to protect some of the most important areas of tropical rainforest in Borneo, including the peat swamps of Sabangau, home to the world’s largest orangutan population. We monitor the behavioural ecology of the forest’s flagship ape and cat species, carry out biodiversity and forestry research, and work with our local partners to develop conservation solutions and improve capacity for conservation in the region. BNF’s biodiversity monitoring research is leading the field in tropical forest biodiversity studies in Kalimantan. Our records stretch back from 1995 and cover almost all major animal groups (from mammals, birds and reptiles, to butterflies and ants), representing the most extensive dataset available for Kalimantan’s peat-swamp forest. Following the devastating forest fires which engulfed Borneo and Sumatra in 2015, combined with ongoing habitat degradation and hunting has resulted in the Bornean orangutan has been up listed to Critically Endangered. BNF is working to understand Asian ape population dynamics, to protect and restore critical habitat and work to raise awareness in Indonesia and around the world.

Pangolins, in general, face threats due to illegal hunting and wildlife trade as their meat is sought after, and their scales are valued for medicinal purposes. Pangolins confiscated within Indonesia are often already dead but any live animals are often inappropriately released into the wild, or are sold back into the trade. While the current population status of the pangolin is unknown, the scale of pangolin trade represents a major conservation risk for the animal.

BNF works to raise awareness in Indonesian Borneo as well as contributing data to understand the trade routes and population status of this elusive species.BNF has a focus on communities, conservation and appplied research on flagship species inclding orangutans, gibbons, red langurs, clouded leopards, bay cats, sun bears, pangolins and other biodiversity.

Biodiversity conservation in the Annamite mountains of Laos

Project Anoulak is dedicated to the conservation and research of wildlife in Laos. It is active in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area (NNT NPA), central eastern Laos. We focus on a range of species notably on the white-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus siki/N. leucogenys), the red-shanked doucs, the large-antlered muntjac and otter species (Lutrogale; Aonyx, Lutra).
We are currently conducting a long-term behavioural ecology research on the white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked doucs. Across their range, these species are under severe threat from (i) illegal hunting (traditional medicine, pet trade and opportunistically for its meat) and from (ii) habitat loss, which is the most severe in Vietnam (Rawson et al., 2011). The seven species of Nomascus spp. and three species of doucs are Globally Threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In NNT NPA, wildlife hunting has been the main cause of animal population declines in the the past few decades and this on-going trend is rapidly leading to local extinction of the most hunting-sensitive species.
Given the current status of gibbon and douc species across their range there is a need to better understand their ecological requirements in order to improve their in-situ and ex-situ conservation management. Understanding the ecology of these species is one of the first steps in the development of conservation management plans and guidelines.
Conservation outcome 1: Gain knowledge of feeding ecology and nutrional requirements of white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked douc to improve in-situ and ex-situ population management
Conservation outcome 2: Protection of white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked douc at the research site with patrol teams
Conservation Outcome 3: Capacity building of lao nationals and local communty engagement and empowerment in conservation biology
Conservation Outcome 4: Knowledge sharing and building collaboration with research institutes and institutions.