are small, arboreal apes, distributed in the wild in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of southeast Asia. They are currently found in small populations in China
, Bangladesh, northeast India
, Myanmar, Malaysia
, and Indonesia
The 12 species of gibbons are classified as lesser apes. They are relatively smaller, slender, and more agile than other apes. They exhibit many characteristics of primates, including flat faces, enlarged brain sizes, grasping hands and feet, arms longer than legs, no tails, and broad chests. Male gibbons are just under 1 m (3 ft) in length and weigh about 7kg (15 lb).
Gibbons are famous for their agility in the forest tree-tops and are excellent arm-swingers. They are considered to be among the world's best acrobats! Gibbons have the longest arms (relative to body size) of all species of primates, enabling them to move hand over hand through the branches of the trees propelled only by their forelimbs. They have the ability to swing from tree to tree, distances of 15 m (50 ft), at speeds of up to 55 kph (35 mph), while in trees over 60 m (200 ft) above ground.
The mated pair sings a spectacular, bird-like duet, with the young occasionally joining in. This song is audible over miles and is the primary way scientists (and poachers) locate wild populations. This haunting melody has found its way in the folklores of the people of Southeast Asia.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Gibbons are undoubtedly the most endangered of all ape species and are threatened primarily by loss of their forest habitat. Other factors contributing to their demise include illegal wildlife trade, the use of their body parts in Chinese medicines, and poaching.