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Signs of hope for the world’s rarest primate

June 2, 2020

The Hainan black-crested gibbon is the world’s rarest primate. Once abundant throughout China, the population of these graceful tree-dwelling apes collapsed because of habitat loss and poaching. They are now found only in one small area of Hainan Island, the Bawangling Nature Reserve. When Seacology launched our first project in China to protect this critical habitat, only 19 gibbons were left

Our project worked with four villages surrounding the reserve to protect the gibbons and their habitat. Facing dire poverty, people had been logging in the reserve to meet basic needs and raise money for their children’s school fees. In partnership with the Zoological Society of Shanghai, the Zoological Society of Paris, and local park authorities, Seacology funded scholarships for hundreds of local children.

In return, the communities’ started protecting the reserve–and reporting poachers. Our project also helped incentivize sustainable alternatives to logging, like beekeeping and production of handicrafts and medicinal herbs. Later, the Chinese government stopped charging parents fees to send their children to school.

After sustained protection and reforestation efforts by governments, NGOs, and the local communities, the latest survey found 30 of the animals, a tripling of their population from its low point in the 1970s. While the gibbons are still critically endangered and slow to reproduce, this news is a very welcome development for a fascinating species on the brink of extinction. We are proud to have played a role in their survival.