Fauna & Flora InternationaI and the cao vit gibbon

14 September 2020 News

Each quarter Nature Picture Library supports a conservation project with a donation. For the quarter May to July 2020 they supported Fauna & Flora International and the cao vit gibbon monitoring programme in Vietnam.

The oldest international conservation NGO

FFI is the world’s oldest international conservation NGO, founded in 1903. It currently works in more than 45 countries. FFI has been working extensively in Vietnam since 1997, focusing on conservation of globally threatened primate species. The programme currently works to conserve eight primate species in Vietnam, including all five that are both endemic and critically endangered. The programme covers four gibbon species and is the largest gibbon conservation programme in the region.

Cao vit gibbon rediscovered

In 2002, FFI rediscovered the cao vit gibbon (Nomascus nasutus) in Cao Bang province, northern Vietnam.

Working with local people

FFI staff interview local people about the expanding of the conservation area.

Since then they have worked to engage local people in species and habitat protection and monitoring. They also support sustainable livelihood development in the buffer zone and facilitate transboundary collaboration between China and Vietnam. With consistent support from FFI, the cao vit gibbon population has approximately doubled since the initial population survey.

The cao vit gibbon, or eastern black crested gibbon, only occurs in one small fragmented forest of Trung Khanh district, on and just across Vietnam’s border with China, with only two of the estimated 20-22 gibbon groups occurring on the Chinese side.” . Conservation efforts by FFI and partners helped the gibbon population stabilise and increase.There has been no hunting or major habitat destruction over the last 15 years. The population had risen from 110 in 2007 to around 130 by 2016. 

One of the most threatened primates

The cao vit gibbon is one of the most threatened primates in the world, listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. It is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, mainly due to fuelwood collection and free-grazing livestock. FFI has been working with local partners to set up community-based patrol groups, to protect key areas of gibbon habitat and to reduce threats in surrounding buffer zones.

Our donation helps monitor populations

Our donation has funded the purchase of a camera to assist with monitoring populations of the cao vit gibbon in Cao Bang province. Here are some images taken with the lens. These rare images are, to our knowledge, the only images of the species held by a major photo library.

We are grateful to Fauna & Flora International for sharing a link to their video on FFI’s work with endangered primates in Vietnam, including the cao vit gibbon.


Latest update on the monitoring programme

Dr Oliver Wearn, technical adviser to the project, told us more about how the monitoring programme is going.

“With the new dedicated effort and resources, monitoring of the cao vit gibbon is going really well. For the first time in years, we have been able to start following individual gibbon groups from dawn to dusk. Round-the-clock teams do morning and afternoon shifts. This has already started to reveal the surprisingly large home-ranges that cao vit gibbon groups can have. Previously, we could only track them from their calls, which probably don’t betray their full home-ranges.”

Unusually large groups

FFI staff and Gibbon Monitoring Team engaged in acoustic recorder training.

“We’ve also – see photo above – had observations of very large groups, of up to 9 individuals. This is very unusual for gibbons. With more dedicated observations, we should be able to decipher who is who in these large groups. In addition, we hope to begin the process of tracking the individual life-histories of gibbons. This, alongside the new home-range information, will be critical for understanding how the species can be put onto a pathway to recovery. Finally, we’ve begun trialing low-cost acoustic recorders to develop vocal ‘fingerprints’ for each gibbon group. If this new method works, we plan to use it alongside our existing population survey methods. This should give a more accurate picture of the total population size, and how it is changing over time.”


Current threats to the species

Josh Keminski, FFI Vietnam Programme Country Director, tells us about current threats to the cao vit gibbon: “We have heard lately from our community conservation teams (CCT) that due to Covid-19, and its impact on cross-border trade, some local people had ‘returned’ to snaring and otherwise exploiting forest resources, to supplement their income. Fortunately, and I’m sure also because of our presence and patrols, no gibbon hunting was recorded.”

FFI’s work with other primates in Vietnam

NPL photographer Matt Maran has documented the work of FFI in Vietnam in protecting the country’s endangered primates. He has created this video about their work:


To find out more about the many conservation projects, Nature Picture Library has supported over the last 7 years, take a look at their conservation donation page

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