There is only one remaining population of cao vit gibbon in the world. This population, which was discovered by Fauna and Flora International (FFI) scientists, is restricted to one pocket of forest on the border between Vietnam and China.
The cao vit gibbon is now listed among the top 25 most endangered primates in the world after a census in 2007 discovered there were fewer than 150 remaining in the wild. This species is mainly threatened by restricted habitat. In the area of Vietnam that these gibbons live, the primary source of income for the people is agriculture. Much of what would have previously been gibbon habitat is now fields. However, land that is unsuitable for cultivation is now not safe as trees are collected for fuel wood and livestock are allowed to free graze, stripping the hillside of vegetation.
Twycross Zoo began supporting a project to conserve the cao vit gibbon in 2007. The Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation project is run in Vietnam by Fauna and Flora International. It is a community based conservation programme that concentrates on habitat protection, reducing local peoples' impact on the forest and increasing awareness.
Twycross Zoo has pledged long term support for some of the key project elements.
Community Based Ranger Patrol Group (CPG)
The CPG is made up of six local people. Their job is to patrol the forest taking notes on gibbon activity and human activity and to liaise with the local communities about forest use.
It is essential to build a sense of pride within a local community that is home to a rare animal. Posters, leaflets and calendars are printed every year and disseminated to households in key villages. This ensures that the people are all aware of the project and encourages them to help to conserve the gibbon.
A workshop is held by the project team annually to allow all the stakeholders to come together. This includes FFI workers, the CPG, local government departments and the local people. These workshops are very important to get feedback from all those involved and ensure the project continues to be a success. These elements go hand in hand with a much larger project that includes:
- Installing fuel efficient stoves to reduce the amount of fuel wood collected from the forest.
- Helping local people grow feed plantations to reduce the free grazing of livestock.
- Planting new trees to help supply sustainable firewood in the future.
- Ecological research into the gibbon and its habit.
There are no cao vit gibbons in captivity to act as an insurance population so it is imperative that conservation projects like this continue.