The secret life of the gibbon: The ape that sings and mates for life

Like many apes, gibbons really look like humans sometimes | Image: CNN / Getty Images Wouldn’t it be great to get into the Guiness Book of Records… international fame and stardom await. Except if you’re Indonesia – in this year’s edition of the book it won the perhaps not so brilliant title of having the “highest deforestation rate in the world”. Since Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse places on our planet, this is obviously not a good sign.

One of the most threatened animals on the archipelago is the gibbon, an ape now numbering only around 4000 on the Indonesian island of Java. It’s a classic case of an animal being under pressure not just from traditional threats like poaching and the pet trade, but also from deforestation and habitat loss.

Gibbon | Image: Wikipedia Gibbons are pretty cool creatures – not only do they sing solos to attract mates, but when they at last succeed in finding that mate, they bond for life. Better than a lot of humans manage. Research has also suggested that they nearly all fracture a bone at least once during their lifetime, but that doesn’t stop them swinging through the trees, jumping as far as 27 feet (8 meters) in a single jump.

Java, Indonesia

As with so many animals, it would be a huge shame to see the gibbon become extinct. Some of the things that make them so special also make them more vulnerable: their song attracts poachers, and the fact that they bond only with a single mate in their lifetimes means that if their mate is killed, a generation is lost.

I don’t want to be depressing, so look on the bright side – there are several artificial breeding projects taking place, but of course they all need money. Hopefully they will stop this fascinating animal from disappearing forever.

CNN’s Impact Your World has some great ways to help the gibbon. Also, CNN’s Arwa Damon recently visited the gibbons and the project trying to breed them – click here for the article and here for the video.


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