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.

Community-based Conservation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

The Chittagong Hill Tracts, located in south-eastern Bangladesh, falls within the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. Our organization’s work in this area for the last six years has documented the persistence of at least 30 globally-threatened species, including two ASAP species: Chinese pangolin and Arakan forest turtle. Years of subsistence hunting, commercial poaching, and habitat destruction through logging and traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practices has led to drastic species population reductions. Hunting is the most immediate threat, and without intervention, the extirpation of Chinese pangolin in the region and Arakan forest turtle from one of their two range countries is inevitable. To prevent this, our project will empower additional traditional indigenous hunters into parabiologists and employ them to conduct forest patrols and species monitoring surveys. These parabiologists will also act as local ambassadors for wildlife conservation in the area for years to come, continuing to sensitize local communities to the importance of species conservation. Our previous work has shown that by empowering local communities we can drastically reduce hunting pressure and ensure habitat protection in a short amount of time. The project will take a holistic landscape-based approach, helping the local communities to reduce dependency on forest resources through sustainable agroforestry and livelihood support. This would not only ensure the protection of these critically endangered ASAP species, but also help conserve both the habitat and over 28 other globally-threatened species occurring in same area.

This project operates synergistically with multiple distinct components and has been bringing conservation success to the region for over six years. Funding from other sources are used primarily to support primary education, livelihood programs, such as craft for conservation, indigo dye processing and marketing, promoting sustainable agroforestry, etc. These activities are necessary to establish trust and reduce community dependence on forest resources.