The Hainan gibbon is one of the rarest monkeys in the world, possibly on the brink of extinction. There are only twenty-six left in existence; including three babies born this year. And, all of these are all living within the confines of the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea.
These delightful apes are sexually dimorphic. Mature males are almost totally black, with occasional pale cheeks, and mature females are a pale golden colour with odd dark patches on the body and a black crest on the head. Both have long arms and legs and no tail.
They swing through the trees using a movement known as brachiation; something gibbons seem far more skilled at than any other species. They swing hand over hand, carrying their long, slender bodies forward. With their powerful muscles and supple joints, they do the job rather well. When on the ground, they possess the ability to walk upright.
Moreover, gibbons are extremely well-known for their singing. A throat sac below the chin allows them to issue a series of notes in rapid succession. Their truly enchanting voices not only allow for bonding and mating, but primatologists are able to locate and track these agile monkeys as they travel at speeds of up to fifty-five miles per hour through the branches.
Notwithstanding their numbers have recently been increased with the birth of the three babies, twenty-six is not a big number. Were the Hainan gibbon to become extinct, it would be the first known ape to do for 12,000 years. It would be a terrible shame to lose these beautiful primates simply because of man’s greed and neglect.
Tropical rainforest, tropical lowland and hillside rainforest
Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Hainan Island, China.
What they eat
Sugary fruit such as figs, leaves, flowers and insects
Severe loss of habitat due to illegal logging, illegal plantations, illegal and legal pulp paper plantations. Water levels have been depleted in some areas because of the moisture needed for pulp trees. As a result, the habitat of the Hainan gibbon has suffered greatly. The rainforests in Hainan have disappeared at an alarming rate over the past decade and reforestation has not been practised in the concerned areas.
Status: Critically Endangered
Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, this species is also listed on CITES Appendix 1. There are no recorded Hainan gibbons in any other parts of the world, and none are known to be kept in captivity. Greenpeace has called upon the Hainan government to uphold their laws relating to the protection of the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus) and its habitat. The species has already lost more than 99% of its original habitat.
This species has had international legal protection since 2003, and been a Class I Nationally Protected Species under the Chinese Wildlife Protection Law since 1989. Bawangling National Nature Reserve was established in 1980 and expanded in 2003. 
“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal”
Edward O. Wilson