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  • Melinda Murphy

Most endangered primate triples in numbers

Conservationists working to save the world’s rarest primate are seeing a glimmer of hope after the population of Hainan gibbons exceeded 30.

“Even though the numbers are still small, you can see a future for this animal,” said senior conservation officer Philip Lo Yik-fui of Hong Kong-based Kadoorie Conservation China, which was driving efforts to protect the gibbons and expand their habitat.

The endangered animal is found only on Hainan, the tropical island off the southern coast of China. Adult males are jet black, while the fur of females turns a rich gold when they reach maturity.

“They are really intelligent animals. When they look at you, it feels like they are trying to communicate,” Lo said.

In 1950, they numbered about 2,000. Two decades later, there were fewer than 10.

Like other species of gibbons globally, the Hainan gibbon suffered from loss of habitat as forests were felled for agriculture. They were also hunted for use in traditional medicine and the pet trade.


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