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15 Endangered Gibbons Found in SW. China
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Chinese scientists on Tuesday revealed that 15 black-crested gibbons, a highly endangered species, have been spotted in Nanhua County of the Chuxiong Autonomous Prefecture of the ethnic Yi group, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

It is the most northerly point in the world that the black gibbon has been discovered, according to Dr. Jiang Xuelong, a gibbon expert with the Kunming Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The black-crested gibbon is among the 15 most endangered wildlife species under first-class protection in China.

Before this discovery, black gibbons were only found to inhabit less than 1,000 square kilometers of area in the world, with their numbers hovering at about 1,000 individuals.

There are 39 groups or about 200 black gibbons living at high altitudes in central Yunnan's Chuxiong. Black gibbons mainly live in western and central areas of Yunnan, north Vietnam and northwest Laos. The rare species has become extinct in south and southeast Yunnan.

Chinese scientists have found that a gibbon family typically consists of five members including one male with one or two female mates. But their eating and breeding habits need to be studied further.

Scientists report that the distribution area of black gibbons has shrunk to the southern part of the prefecture over the past six years which makes the new discovery all the more remarkable.

Human activities in gibbon-inhabited forests, such as pasturing and foraging for medicinal herbs and wild fungus, are considered ways to help the poor make a living. But they have also forced black gibbons to give up their comfortable alpine habitats and move to low-altitude forests.

Thanks to efforts by the local government to protect the species, the 32,000-ha Chuxiong black gibbon habitat in the central part of Yunnan, the largest of its kind in China, has been included in the country's state-level Ailaoshan Nature Reserve that covers an area of 66,700 ha.

Local government has called for efforts from villagers living in the area to improve efforts to protect the animal and its habitat.

The province has set up a special fund and hopes to attract financial aid from home and abroad for cooperative research programs.

(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2006)

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