The conservation status of India's only ape was a cause for concern at a recent global event on gibbons in China.
Gibbons are the smallest and fastest of all apes. The hoolock gibbon, unique to India's northeast, is one of 20 species of gibbons found in tropical and subtropical forests in Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, all 20 species of gibbons are at a high risk of extinction, including the hoolock gibbon. The estimated population of hoolock gibbons is 12,000, making their conservation a pressing issue.
The Global Gibbon Network (GGN) discussed these alarming statistics and the decline in gibbon distribution and populations during their meeting in China's Hainan province, as reported by The Hindu.
Gibbons are highly intelligent creatures with distinct personalities and strong family bonds, similar to other apes. Since 1900, gibbon distribution and populations have drastically decreased, leaving only small populations in tropical rainforests.
The GGN emphasised the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect all 20 gibbon species.
The primary threat to the hoolock gibbon is the deforestation caused by infrastructure projects.
Gibbons are known for their energetic vocal displays and were initially found in Assam.
For many years, zoologists believed that there were two species of hoolock gibbons in the northeast region of India — the eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
In 2021, a study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad provided evidence through genetic analysis that there is actually only one species of gibbon in India.
According to the Red List maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the western hoolock gibbon is classified as endangered and the eastern hoolock gibbon as vulnerable.
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