Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Hainan gibbon decline charted in Chinese records

By Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent, BBC News

5 August 2015 
From the section

There are only 26-28 Hainan gibbons left in the wild

Historical Chinese documents have helped scientists to track the decline of the world's rarest primates.

Today, China has between 26 and 28 Hainan gibbons left, but government records that date back to the 17th Century show that gibbons were once widespread across half of the country.

The apes began to disappear from the documents about 150 years ago, corresponding with population growth.

We looked at the pattern of disappearance of gibbons through time and how that varied from place to placeDr Sam Turvey, Zoological Society of London

Hainan gibbons are now limited to a few isolated patches of forest in the south west of China.

They live in just four social groups, one of which was only discovered a few weeks ago.

Understanding this population crash has been difficult, but the old government documents have helped to reveal when and how the numbers fell.

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