In their native south-east Asia, gibbons hold a special place in human society, because of their close relationship and resemblance to our own species. They are known as ‘lesser apes’ and as is characteristic of their great ape relatives, they have no tail, an upright posture and a high level of intelligence. Gibbons tend not to be hunted by people and in some areas are revered as good spirits of the forest. However, the undisturbed primary rainforest on which most gibbons depend is being cut down at a devastating rate, and as a result they all face the risk of extinction.
Durrell first began working with the white-handed gibbon as a ‘model’ species in 1997, with the arrival of a breeding pair from Twycross Zoo. As it is thought to be the least threatened of the gibbons, this species is being kept to develop successful husbandry methods for future use on more endangered species.
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