11th June 2010

We find gibbons for sale in pet stores and on the internet, however, what are gibbon monkeys?

Gibbons are small  or lesse apes known for their acrobatic skills and bipedal mode of locomotion. They are found sleeping in upright position and enjoy eating fruits.

Gibbons are popular zoo exhibits because of their arm swinging skills. People have been intrigued by their ability to swing so easily.

Moreover, scientists have always been fascinated by their amazing acrobatic skills. Their agility in forest tree tops, simply leaves everybody stupefied. Like the other types of primates, gibbons are animals with flat faces, full shoulder rotations, broad chest, arms which are longer than legs, grasping hands and feet, enlarged brain, absence of tail and presence of opposing digits. However, gibbons have several unique features.

Gibbon monkey facts:

There are 15 gibbon species, which are placed under 4 genera: Nomascus, Symphalangus, Hoolock, and Hylobates.

Appearance: They are known as smaller or lesser apes.  The gibbon is a relatively small, lightweight, agile and slender animal. The gibbon has a small round head, long arms, with long fingers, but relatively short thumb. Their body is covered by dense, fluffy, light coloured to dark brown hair. This hair envelopes most of the body parts, except the face, fingers, palms, soles of the feet and armpits. Their small jaws feature sharp canine teeth. The female gibbons are generally heavier than the males.

Habitat: Gibbons spend most of their time swinging in trees. Thus, they are classified in the group of arboreal animals. They are found in the wild in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of South, Southeast and East Asia. Countries like China, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Northeast India, Thailand and Cambodia have the privilege of housing small populations of this animal.

Shelter: Unlike apes, gibbons do not build their own nests. Gibbon possess fleshy pads, devoid of nerves attached to the hip bones, called ischial callosities, which enables them to sleep in the sitting position. In the wild gibbon are found sleeping in sitting position in the forks of branches, with their heads tucked into their laps and their long arms wrapped around their knees. Groups of gibbons have their usual sleeping trees, they are diurnal primates, being active about 10.5 hours a day.

Diet: Gibbon monkeys are omnivorous, thus, they eat anything and everything, right from plants to meat and fruits.

However, 75% of their diet comprises of all kinds of fruits, which they consume during their hunt among the trees during the day. They also munch on tender shoots, leaves, seeds, barks and flowers. Eggs, insects, spiders, small birds, etc. are also part of their diet.

Mode of Transport: Their long arms enable them to swing from one branch to another; one tree to another and they can remain suspended in the air by their hands. Their long fingers enables them to get a good grasp on the branch by acting like a hook. This arm-swinging movement is called branchiation, which enables them to swing distances of about 50 feet in trees, as high as 200 feet at a speed of about 35 mph. Besides the swinging form of transport, these primates are also known for their bipedal locomotion. They walk bipedally with their arm assisting to maintain balance. They often exert their body weight on their hands and then swing their legs. However, gibbons cannot swim and thus avoid water.

Felling of trees and man's intrusion into their habitat, has pushed gibbon monkeys one step closer to extinction. Today, these wonderful acrobatic gibbon monkeys are in the endangered monkeys list. Illegal wildlife trade, poaching and use of their body parts for preparation of traditional medicine are some other factors that have contributed to their plummeting numbers. It's up to us to prevent these amazing acrobats from being wiped off the surface of this Earth!