In addition to being one of the planet's most endangered primates, northern white-cheeked crested gibbons are among the most romantic -- and it's their love of the serenade which clued researchers to a significant discovery. Over the last 45 years, the gibbons have been brought the brink of extinction from deforestation, logging, hunting, threats which reduced the species' numbers to a point where recovery seemed unlikely. But now, a surprising find in the jungles of Vietnam is bringing with it new hope: a large group of thriving gibbons which researchers say is the only confirmed 'viable' population.According to a report from the Herald-Sun, researchers working in Northern Vietnam's Pu Mat National Park, near the border with Laos, became aware of a remote group of approximately 455 white-cheeked crested gibbons thanks to their "loud, elaborate and prolonged" mating calls. The gibbons are no stranger to this region, but until now they were thought to exist only in small, isolated populations due to habitat loss and other factors impeding their survival.
Researchers from Conservation International (CI) told the Herald-Sun that the find offers an encouraging sign that such critically endangered species really do benefit from conservation efforts to guard their habitats:
The community represents two thirds of the total number in Vietnam and the "only confirmed viable population" of the variety worldwide.
"This is an extraordinarily significant find, and underscores the immense importance of protected areas in providing the last refuges for the region's decimated wildlife," said CI president Dr Russell Mittermeier.
White-cheeked crested gibbons are noted in the primate world for their remarkable monogamy and boisterous courtship rituals -- though throughout much of Asia, they continue to be threatened by human activity, like deforestation and poachers who sell their parts as medicine.
Those who discovered this unlikely group of gibbons, thriving despite the many hardships others in their species face, say that soon this group of 455 may await a similar fate. There are plans to build a road through Pu Mat National Park, an experts fear that with it the isolated gibbon enclave will eventually disappear.