Common names are not officially defined. They are based on everyday conversational language and may differ by country, region, profession, community, or other factors. As a result, it is not unusual for a species to have more than one common name.

Scientific names are in Latin and they are written in italics. They are standardized and for everyone, no matter what language you may speak. They are bound by a formal naming system, called binominal nomenclature, that has strict rules. Scientific names prevent misidentification. Those names only change if a species, or its genus, is officially redesignated by experts.

Ape, often referred to as a “small ape” or “lesser ape”

The Hainan gibbon species is restricted to just 0.8 sq mi (2 sq km) within the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on the western side of Hainan Island in the South China Sea. 95% of their original habitat of lowland, tropical primary forest has been destroyed. Today, these enigmatic primates occupy only a small patch of remnant rainforest, which continues to shrink. With the continued destruction of lowland forest, where trees are 32.8 ft (10 m) or taller, Hainan gibbons have been forced to take up residence in less-suitable mountainous forest, where elevations range from 328 to 5,905 ft (100-1800 m).

  • Hainan gibbons are the world’s rarest apes and one of the world’s rarest mammals
  • Total population: 30
  • 95% of their primary habitat has been destroyed
  • Hainan gibbons use song to communicate with one another. Each day, usually beginning at dawn, male and female Hainan gibbon pairs engage in a duet known as a “morning call.” They also engage in song duets for bonding and mating.
  • The song notes of Hainan gibbon duets are specific enough to deter interbreeding with the other six “singing” gibbon species who share the Nomascus genus.
They are at an extremely high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

Developing rubber and commercial logging industries, the construction of roads, a human population boom (between 1950 and 2003), and a subsequent increase in human settlements have all contributed to wiping out the Hainan gibbon’s original lowland rainforest habitat. This willful destruction of habitat has also resulted in a split of gibbon populations, isolating them from one another and hindering successful reproduction in the species. A significant decline in genetic diversity also jeopardizes the species’ viability. 

Historically, Hainan gibbons have been hunted and killed, and their bones were then traded on the black market to be used in “traditional medicines”—none of which have been proven valid. These rare apes have also been killed for their meat.

The low income of Hainan citizens has fueled the illegal pet trade. Mother gibbons are shot and killed and their babies are stolen. If a young mother is the intended kidnap victim, her baby is left to die.

  1. Hainan gibbons are wild animals. Their diet and environmental needs cannot be adequately met or replicated in human living conditions. 
  2. To become pets, baby primates are stolen from their mothers. As a result, they do not develop normally emotionally.
  3. When taken from the wild, their mothers are killed to capture the baby.
  4. Primates are never domesticated. They always remain wild. 
  5. Caged primates are very unhappy and frustrated. They are likely to resist confinement. They are quick and cause damaging bites and scratches. Some die as a result of their captivity.
  6. Many locations have strict regulations that prohibit trading in or keeping primates and endangered species are pets. It is illegal to keep Critically Endangered species as pets.
  7. Hainan gibbons belong with other gibbons in the China’s lowland rainforests. They and their habitats must be protected, not exploited.

Visit the HAINAN GIBBON Primate Species Profile

 Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2019. You may freely use and share these learning activities for educational purposes. 
For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected].