Also known as the LAR GIBBON or the COMMON GIBBON

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, also referred to as small ape or lesser ape

White-handed gibbons live in the tropical rainforests of southern and Southeast Asia. Of all the gibbon species, white-handed gibbons inhabit the greatest north-south range. They make their homes in the countries of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

  • Masters of agility, white-handed gibbons can leap 26 feet (8 m) between branches
  • They prefer a diet of fruit and cultivate the forest by dispersing seeds
  • White-handed gibbons were regarded by early Chinese writers as “noble gentlemen who move gracefully through trees”
  • Gibbons famously communicate through song, rich vibratos that reverberate through their rainforest habitat. In addition to an adult white-handed gibbon male’s morning wake-up reveille, elaborate duets are part of the species’ musical repertoire.
  • An adult bonded pair sings a duet before noontime each day. Their loud and distinctive song, enhanced by a sound-amplifying throat sac, lasts an average of 11 minutes and can be heard up to 0.6 mi (1 km) away.
This means that there is a high risk that they could become extinct in the wild.

Habitat loss is a major threat to the species’ survival. Forests are rapidly disappearing, razed for the logging industry and transformed into agricultural tracts of land. White-handed gibbons are also hunted and killed for their meat. In Thailand, white-handed gibbon mothers are routinely shot and killed and their babies are stolen, to be exploited and traded in the illegal pet market.

  1. Although absolutely adorable, gibbons, like all primates, do not make good pets.
  2. Gibbons are intelligent, strong-willed, strong, and have formidible teeth that cause a good deal of damage.
  3. Gibbons are LOUD! Their “songs” lasts an average of 11 minutes and can be heard up to 0.6 mi (1 km) away.
  4. Gibbons live in monogamous family groups and require the company of a bonded mate. 
  5. Gibbons belong high in the trees with a great deal of space where they can perform their naturally acrobatic swinging and leaping behaviors, an extremely difficult condition to replicate in captivity.
  6. To become pets, gibbon babies are stolen from their mothers. As a result, they do not develop normally emotionally.
  7. Primates are never domesticated. They always remain wild. 
  8. Caged primates are very unhappy and frustrated. They are likely to resist confinement. They are quick and cause damaging bites and scratches.
  9. Many locations have strict regulations that prohibit trading in or keeping primates and endangered species are pets.
  10. White-handed gibbons belong with other gibbons in southeast Asia. They and their habitats must be protected, not exploited.

Visit the WHITE-HANDED GIBBON Primate Species Profile

 Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2019. You may freely use and share these learning activities for educational purposes. 
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