The World’s Rarest Ape Lives—and Sings—on a Chinese Island
Scientists are trying to save the Hainan gibbon, which was once boiled for gibbon paste. But first they have to find the elusive apes.
HONG KONGWhen dawn breaks on Futou Ling, a mountain on Hainan Island off China’s south coast, the last remaining gibbons begin to sing.
Males climb to the treetops, where their voices will carry the farthest, and start warbling, hooting, and shrieking. Females and youngsters join in, creating an intense musical cacophony that fills the tropical forest.
“The Hainan gibbon,” says Turvey, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London, “is the world’s rarest ape, the world’s rarest primate and, almost certainly, the world’s rarest mammal.” (Only three northern white rhinos remain, but that is a subspecies of white rhino.)
Some 28 gibbons survive in a six-square-mile (16-square-kilometer) patch of rainforest in Bawangling National Nature Reserve, in western Hainan. They