A guide to Gibbons

Sun 19th May

What is a gibbon?

Gibbons are part of the ape family and are classified as ‘lesser apes’. This is because they are smaller than the ‘great apes’ which include chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos. The scientific name for the gibbon is ‘Hylobatidae’.


What family does the gibbon belong to?

Gibbons belong to the Hylobatidae family.


Where do gibbons live in the wild?

Gibbons are natives to the forests of southern Asia


What do gibbons look like?

Gibbons are small animals, often reaching lengths of only 17 – 25 inches, and weighing between 9 -29 lbs. This can vary between species, but they are known as ‘lesser apes’ for a reason! Their appearance can also change per species, but something that they all have in common is that they are tailless.

Their coat of fur can range from black, brown or cream. Most species of gibbon have white markings on their face, feet and hands. They also have long arms, sometimes up to 1.5x longer than their legs, and hook-like hands which help them swing effortlessly through the trees.


What do gibbons eat?

Gibbons are omnivores, meaning that they eat a mixture of plants and animals. They most often feed on fruit but will also include leaves, bird eggs and insects within their diet. As they are arboreal, meaning they live in the trees, they will feed on what is most accessible to them.


How many gibbons are left in the wild?

With the 20 species of gibbon ranging between Endangered and Critically Endangered, it isn’t known exactly how many are left in total. However, the most Endangered species, the Hainon gibbon, have reduced to a population of only 30! 


How long do gibbons live for?

In the wild gibbons can live up to 25 years. Their lifespan can be even longer when in captivity.


Are gibbons endangered?

Unfortunately gibbons are one of the most endangered species of ape. All but one species of gibbon are currently Endangered or Critically Endangered:

Examples include::

  • Cao Vit gibbon: Critically Endangered
  • Northern white-cheeked gibbon: Critically Endangered
  • Northern yellow-cheeked crested gibbon: Endangered
  • Silvery gibbon: Endangered

One of the primary reasons for the widespread endangerment of the gibbon species’ is due to habitat loss, often a result of forest destruction and fragmentation. Hunting and illegal trade are also a threat that impacts population levels.


How many species of Gibbon are there?

There are 20 species of Gibbon, all of which are native to South and Southeast Asia. These are categorised into four genus:


Genus Hoolock:

  • Western hoolock gibbon
  • Eastern hoolock gibbon
  • Skywalker hoolock gibbon


Genus Hylobates:

  • Lar gibbon or white-handed gibbon
  • Bornean white-bearded gibbon
  • Agile gibbon or black-handed gibbon
  • Western grey gibbon or Abbott’s grey gibbon
  • Eastern grey gibbon or northern grey gibbon
  • Müller’s gibbon or southern grey gibbon
  • Silvery gibbon
  • Pileated gibbon or capped gibbon
  • Kloss’s gibbon


Genus Symphalangus:

  • Siamang


Genus Nomascus:

  • Northern buffed-cheeked gibbon
  • Concolor or black crested gibbon
  • Eastern black crested gibbon or Cao Vit black crested gibbon
  • Hainan black crested gibbon
  • Northern white-cheeked gibbon
  • Southern white-cheeked gibbon
  • Yellow-cheeked gibbon


Does the gibbon have any natural predators?

Although Gibbons are not easy prey, they do have a number of natural predators, including:

  • Leopards
  • Big birds
  • Large snakes


What is the gibbons natural habitat?

Forests and areas densely populated with trees are the natural habitat of the gibbon. Due to their physical features including long arms and specialised shoulder joints this make them perfectly designed for living within the trees. In fact, gibbons rarely descend to the forest floor!

The way in which gibbons move, also known as brachiating, helps gibbons to move throughout the jungle at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, and covering as much as 50 feet with a single leap.


How can you adopt a gibbon?

You can adopt a gibbon here at Paradise Wildlife Park and help our conservation efforts with this wonderful species.



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