Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Five Fun Facts About Gibbons

October 24 marks “Internation Gibbon Day,” a day to celebrate gibbons and raise awareness about the threats faced by these endangered primates.

In honor of International Gibbon Day, here are are five fun facts about our gibbon cousins and one fact that’s not fun at all.

Fact # 1 – Gibbons are “lesser apes”

Gibbons are not monkeys. They are part of the ape family and are classified as lesser apes because they are smaller than the great apes. The great apes are bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and orangutans.

Fact #2 – Gibbons mostly move by swinging

Gibbons are famous for the swift and graceful way they swing through the trees by their long arms. This method of locomotion is called brachiation. This way of moving makes gibbons the fastest ape. They can travel at a speed of up to 34 miles per hour which is around the same speed as a galloping racehorse.

Pair of Lar Gibbons at Salzburg zoo. Photo by Matthias Kabel, Creative Commons CC-BY 2.5

Fact #3 – Gibbons pair up

Unlike most primates, gibbons frequently form long-term pair bonds and sometimes mate for life.

Fact #4  – Gibbons communicate by singing

Gibbon vocalizations are often referred to as song because of the way they modulate their pitch. Gibbons sing alone and in duets and they start each day by singing at sunrise.

An adult female skywalker hoolock gibbon. Photo by Fan Peng-Fei, Cloud Mountain Conservation

Fact #5 – There are 20 known species of gibbon

There are twenty species of gibbon including the skywalker hoolock gibbon which was discovered in 2017 in Myanmar and named for Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.

The not so fun fact about gibbons is that all 20 species are threatened by extinction. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says the three greatest threats to their survival are palm oil production, logging, and the illegal trade in wildlife. Here are some ways you can help. 



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