Two of the world's most endangered (and strangest) primates receive protection from new reserves in China and Vietnam

Jeremy Hance
September 24, 2009

There are 200 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys left in the world. The cao vit gibbon, however, is even worse off with only 110 individuals remaining, giving it the dubious honor of being the second most endangered primate in the world (the closely-related Hainan gibbon with only 17 individuals is likely number one).

Both of these species—the cao vit gibbon and Tonkin snub nosed monkey—have received good news recently as new reserves in China and Vietnam have been created in part to aid their survival.

In the Khau Ca forest in northern Vietnam a new 2000 hectare nature reserve protects a population of 90 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys ( Rhinopithecus avunculus), as well as macaques, lorises, and rare plants in the sub-tropical forest.

Rare cao vit gibbons in the new Bangliang Cao Vit Gibbon Nature Reserve. Credit Zhao Chao, FFI.
"This new reserve protects the most viable Tonkin snub-nosed monkey population and so represents the species' best chance for survival," said Paul Insua-Cao, Flora and Fauna International’s (FFI) Vietnam Primate Programme Manager. "FFI is proud to have helped to establish the protected area and congratulates the provincial government and local communities on their new nature reserve."

The new reserve in China, which borders Vietnam, more than quadruples the amount of protected habitat for the cao vit gibbon ( Nomascus nasutus). Adjacent to the Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Area in Vietnam, the new 6,530 hectare reserve entitled the Bangliang Nature Reserve, now places the entire habitat of the cao vit gibbons under protection.

"This increase in the amount of protected cao vit gibbon habitat is a huge success for FFI and for conservation in the region,“ said Luo Yang, FFI’s China Programme Manager. “FFI has been encouraging the local government to establish this new reserve ever since the species was discovered in China in 2006. The cao vit gibbon currently lives mainly on the Vietnamese side of the border but it now has the chance to safely extend its population into China. The future for the species now looks much brighter.”

Habitat loss from firewood collection, livestock, and agricultural expansion, has been the main driver behind the decline in both the cao vit gibbon and the Tonkin's snub-nosed monkey.

FFI has been working with local communities to improve their livelihoods and ensure the survival of the nearby primates. One program has been providing fuel efficient stoves to communities in order to stem forest destruction for firewood. Patrol groups have also been established to protect the primates from poachers.

Since 2002 FFI's Asia-Pacific program has been working with local authorities in both Vietnam and China to save the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and the cao vit gibbon.

Habitat loss, poaching for bushmeat and traditional medicines, and a palm oil boom leading to massive deforestation across the region, have made Asia the worst place in the world for primates, according to Conservation International Director Russel Mittermeier.

The strange-looking Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is one of the world's rarest primates. Credit - Xi Zhinong, Wild China, FFI.

Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys now have their own nature reserve, which brings hope for their survival. Credit - Xi Zhinong, Wild China, FFI.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (September 24, 2009).

Two of the world's most endangered (and strangest) primates receive protection from new reserves in China and Vietnam.