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White-headed gibbons in China probably extinct
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The gibbon, the only living member of Pongidae family in China, is on the verge of extinction. All five gibbon species in China, the concolor, Hainan, white-browed, white-cheeked, and white-headed gibbons, are in urgent need of protection, Bejing Scitech Report reports.

This undated photo shows a white-headed gibbon, a rare world species. [File photo:hainan.net]

Surveys show that there are nearly 1,000 concolor gibbons, only 100 white-browed gibbons, and just 20 Hainan gibbons remaining in China. White-cheeked gibbons have not been spotted since 1980.

Last November, 14 experts from the CAS Kunming Institute of Zoology and the University of Zurich made an intensive search in Yunnan's Nangun River Nature Reserve, looking for white-headed gibbons, a species native to southwestern China's Yunan Province. However, they failed to see or hear a single one.

"We adopted a commonly used method based on gibbons' calls to assess the population," Beijing Scitech Report quoted Jiang Xuelong, a researcher at the CAS Kunming Institute of Zoology, as saying.

Gibbons are most vocal in the morning, when they can be heard two or three kilometers away, and each species has a distinctive sound. Every morning for several days, researchers woke up early to monitor the calls. There were none to be heard.

Experts believe that gibbons are growing scarce as a result of developing agriculture, especially rubber trees, which as destroyed large areas of the tropical rainforest.

Although people have realized the problem in recent years and tried to recover the forests, the situation has not improved enough for gibbons, which inhabit in tropical rainforests and feed on wild fruits, and avoid man-made forests, the report said.

Since 1989, all of the gibbon species have been listed as Class-A protected animals under China 's Wildlife Protection Law, along with the giant panda and golden monkey.

(CRI June 3, 2008)

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