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Black gibbons - the “soul” of the northern forests

 VietNamNet Bridge – Tiger is the king of beasts in the forests, while gibbons’ songs are the soul of the forests. There is only one forest in Yen Bai province where black gibbons still exist.

VietNamNet Bridge – Tiger is the king of beasts in the forests, while gibbons’ songs are the soul of the forests. There is only one forest in Yen Bai province where black gibbons still exist.


The FFI’s team stops for a short while during their trip.


Tens of years ago, green forests covered a large area of Yen Bai province, where people could regularly heard gibbons’ songs and met flocks of black gibbons. The gibbons sang in the morning to wake up the jungles after a long sleep.

Yen Bai people, when hearing the gibbons’ songs, can guess if it would be a rainy or sunny day. Black gibbons sang only when the sky was cloudless and clear, while they only howled on rainy and wet days.

FFI, the international wildlife protection fund, has organized a lot of fieldwork trips to the primeval forests in Yen Bai in the last few years. They can only see black gibbons in the Che Tao forest which covers a total area of 28,000 hectares.

Black gibbons (nomascus concolor), the precious and rare animal species listed in the Red Book, now can be seen in some countries in the world, including China, Laos and Vietnam. However, they populate in small areas and they are in the danger of extinction.

Black gibbons, according to scientists, play a very important role in the forest life. They are called “indicator species” of primeval forest, a very important part of the Vietnamese forests and culture.

According to Vang A Lu, Head of the Mu Cang Chai district’s forest ranger unit, the fieldworks carried out by FFI in 1999-2001 found that there were 39 groups of black gibbons with over 100 individuals living in the Mu Cang Chai Natural Reserve.

Meanwhile, the fieldwork carried out in 2010 found some 80 individuals only in the reserve. There were another 80 individuals found in some other areas.

In 2012, FFI, during the 40-day trip to the localities, recorded the songs of some 20 black gibbon individuals in the area adjacent to Than Uyen district. The songs of gibbons were still heard in the central area of the natural reserve, but it was impossible to calculate the number of flocks and individuals.

“It was highly possible that the black gibbons had moved to the Ngoc Chien forest in Son La province,” Lu said.

During the 2013 trip, FFI officers could only record the songs of some 20 black gibbon individuals in the Than Uyen area. Local people said they rarely see gibbons in Khau Long area, while there has been no gibbon and no sound in Hau De Rua area.

FFI’s fieldworks have pointed out the sharp decrease in the number of black gibbons. The gibbons’ shelter in Yen Bai province proves to be not safe enough for them because of the uncontrollable poaching.

Lu said local people have been making every effort to protect the “soul” of the forest, but it is really a very difficult task.

According to FFI, black gibbons in Mu Cang Chai natural reserve move regularly between the Che Tao, Ngoc Chien forests and the areas adjacent to Lai Chau province. The gibbons, during their travel, would be exposed to poachers. Therefore, forest rangers have to keep watching over them to protect them against the risks.

Nong Nghiep


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