Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)


Photo: Jayantha Das and D. Mukherjee

Until recently almost nothing was known about the status of Hoolock Gibbons in Myanmar. The first modern records on Hoolock Gibbons in Myanmar were collected in 1983, during assessments for new protected areas. Birdwatching tours became popular during the 1990s and provided occasional Hoolock records, as did more detailed biodiversity surveys.

The first dedicated studies of Hoolock were undertaken in two protected areas in the mid 2000s by the Ministry of Forestry and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and indicated much larger populations of Hoolocks than were known from neighboring range countries. However, the national conservation status of the genus was far from clear.

Threats and the remaining populations of gibbons

Legal and illegal logging and hunting in existing gibbon habitat are still widespread, so in 2011 we started supporting gibbon conservation at the national level and at some key sites. These aim to reduce both systemic and local threats and to build awareness, capacity and support for the conservation of both species in Myanmar.

Preliminary survey results indicate that the undisturbed protected forest in the southern Rakhine State on the western coast of Myanmar could potentially be the largest remaining population in the world. We are working with local partners to identify and protect additional sites.

Myanmar Primate Conservation Program

We have reviewed all the available literature and many previously unpublished records for Hoolock Gibbons in Myanmar – and conducted extensive original research – to provide density estimates for both the Western and Eastern Hoolock Gibbon species in 25 locations.

Results confirm that by far the most significant populations of both species are in Myanmar, and this country therefore holds the global future of Hoolock Gibbons in its hands. The situation for Western Hoolock is less promising: much of its former habitat is now degraded, but several larger blocks of suitable forest offer hope.

PRCF and partners’ extensive surveys identified the following priority conservation goals for the long-term survival of the Hoolock Gibbon species:

  • „„increase knowledge on distribution and relative abundance of the Hoolock Gibbon in Myanmar
  • „„identify major threats to gibbon populations in Myanmar
  • „„raise awareness among relevant stakeholders about gibbon conservation „„
  • develop a model for participatory action planning.