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Hainan Island


Conservation benefit: Protection of the highly endangered Hainan gibbon

Community benefit: Scholarships for the children of four villages

Date Approved: 11.2003


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

One of the world’s most endangered primates is the Hainan gibbon. There are only 19 individuals remaining, all in Bawangling Reserve on Hainan Island off the south coast of China.

There are four villages close to the reserve. The residents are poor Miao and Li minority tribes people, who have been cutting down trees in the reserve. The families in the villages have 200 children aged 8 to 13, but cannot afford to send them to primary school.

Seacology, working with the Zoological Society of Shanghai and the Zoological Society of Paris, will fund scholarships for all 200 children. The villagers have agreed to forgo nonsustainable exploitation of the reserve. Instead, they will pursue alternatives such as bee farming, producing handicrafts, and growing medicinal herbs.

Project Updates

June 2020

Good news from Hainan: The population of the Hainan gibbon, the rarest primate in the world, has increased to more than 30. That is still a very small number, but the trend is hopeful. And recently, villagers spotted a male and female together in a different part of the forest, away from the main population–a significant and hopeful event.

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January 2007

A total of 719 scholarships were awarded between September 2004 and December 2005 to elementary and middle school children in exchange for families’ agreements to protect the Bawangling National Natural Reserve and the Hainan gibbon. Environmental education was provided by Hainan Province Education Centre of Ecology and Environment (HECEE) as part of the program. Village conservation awareness has improved, with villagers reporting poaching to rangers and communicating their support for the project. As of August 2006, positive relationships between villagers and Natural Reserve staff continue, and HECEE staff members started attending village conferences and coordinating environmental education programs at the schools.

In December 2006, the Chinese government decided to abolish tuition fees for children in rural areas in an attempt to narrow the gap between wealthy provinces and poorer regions.

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July 2005

A Seacology expedition visited this project in April 2005. 250 families have signed the agreement and are receiving scholarships for their children. There is now an unprecedented level of cooperation between the local villagers and the park rangers. For the first time ever, villagers have been turning in poachers to the park rangers.

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January 2005

Approximately 200 families have signed the conservation agreement. A Seacology expedition will visit Hainan in April 2005.

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July 2004

Representatives from Shanghai Zoological Society (SZS) met with village residents to design agreement forms and discuss how the scholarships will be distributed. A SZS representative will be in Hainan from May to September 2004 to help the Hainan Province Education Center of Ecology and Environment manage the first year’s set of the scholarships and review the progress of the protection of the Bawangling Hainan Gibbon reserve.

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