The endangered Javan gibbon found only on the Indonesian island of Java could disappear, conservationists are warning.
The Javan gibbons, also known as silvery gibbons, are threatened by climate change and human activity, including farming, which is destroying their habitat.
Conservationists estimate there are only about 4,000 of the small apes left on Java, the most heavily populated island in the Indonesian archipelago. They are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Arif Setiawan, a researcher at the local gibbon conservation group SwaraOwa, spent over a decade monitoring the gibbons. He told Reuters that although the 400 gibbons he monitors in a 73-kilometre reserve in Petungkriyono Forest appear stable for now, their living area is not.
“The real threat now is the integrity of the forest itself because of the increasing number of human activities,” Setiawan said. “Many people are encroaching on the forest as well, clearing the forest which was originally the habitat of the gibbons,” he added.
SwaraOwa works with the government and holds regular meetings with the local community. They also set up signs to fights illegal hunting and logging in the forest.
“After realising what I had been doing was wrong, I began to search for methods to take forest products without destroying the forest and without hunting the animals,” Tasuri, a 51-year old former poacher and logger, said. Farming shade-grown coffee is a way to make money and not harm the forest, he added.
Climate change is another threat to the gibbons. “It is still raining when it supposed to be the dry season, and that will eventually impact the vegetation. Instead of fruiting season, leaves grow,” said local forestry official Untoro Tri Kurniawan.
“So the flower that is supposed to become fruit would fall and eventually impact the animals in Petungkriyono,” he added.
The Silvery Gibbon Project, another conservation group, has warned that there’s a 50/50 chance the Javan gibbons will disappear in the next decade.
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