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Home | Animals | Mammals | Primates | Apes | White-Handed Gibbon

White-Handed Gibbon

White-Handed Gibbon



Scientific classification
Species:H. lar


White-Handed Gibbon, like the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan, is an ape not a monkey. They share with the great apes several features: a large brain, a flat face with shortened jaws, a more or less upright posture, a broad chest and no tail. Gibbons are small and lightweight. They have a small, round head face bare and surrounded by a white fringe. White-Handed Gibbons have long, slender arms and the upper part of their hands and feet is always white. They possess an opposable thumb that is used for climbing or grooming but not for swinging from branch to branch. Gibbons are arboreal: they spend most of their lives in trees. Gibbons are covered with light-colored to very dark brown (or black) dense hair on most of their body (except their face, fingers, palms, armpits, and bottoms of their feet). Fur is extremely dense, providing protection from rain. One square centimeter of skin has over 2,000 individual hairs (13,125 per sq. in.) compared to 900 hairs per sq. cm. for Old World monkeys.They have senses very similar to ours, including hearing, sight (including color vision), smell, taste and touch. The average body mass for an adult male White - Handed Gibbon is around 5.7 kilograms, and for the female it is around 5.3 kilograms. Male gibbons are slightly larger than the females. The White - Handed Gibbon has a throat sac located beneath the chin to help enhance the calls. The male song is simple with quaver-hoots, female son is longer, rising to climax, about 18 seconds long.



The White-Handed Gibbon are found in different parts of Southeast Asia, the countries of Burma, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Sumatra, and Thailand. This species can be found in old growth tropical rain forests, semi deciduous monsoon forests and tropical evergreen forests. They prefer the covered closed canopy but during feeding may climb to highest emergent crowns of trees or descend to clumps of bamboo and low bushes, for to drink.


Lar gibbons are one of the pickiest eaters in the primate world. The White-Handed Gibbon are mainly, prefer fruits high in sugar such as figs. Gibbon are omnivores (eating plants and meat). They forage for food in the forests during the day, eating fruits, and they may visit sixteen or more widely spaced food trees in a day's foraging. About 75% of their diet is fruit, but they also eat leaves, flowers, seeds, tree bark, and tender plant shoots. Sometimes they also eat insects, spiders, snails, bird eggs, and small birds. Zoo diet is primate chow, fruits, vegetables and browse. Gibbons drink water, often by dipping a furry hand into the water or rubbing a hand on wet leaves, and then slurping up the water from their fur. Gibbons sometimes do this while dangling above the water from a thin tree branch. They drink by licking their own fur after a storm, or dipping an arm into a tree hole or rubbing it on wet foliage.They have several adaptations for feeding. One of them is brachiating locomotion, which involves swinging from branch to branch by their arms. This style of motion allows them to reach the edge of the tree canopy, where most of their food is found. Other adaptations include high cusps on their back teeth to help grind plant matter, and a gut adapted for a folivorous diet.



Gibbons are social animals that are active during the day (they are diurnal). Gibbons mate for life; the young, born singly, remain with the family group until they are five or six years old. Like other apes, gibbons groom one another (they clean the hair of a family member).The males are not socially or physically dominant over females. They are vigorously territorial, spending up to 1/2 hour or more each morning calling and displaying. The function of calling seems to be both territorial and to reinforce the pair bond. The calling bout is usually initiated by the female. Males and females "duet" with different "songs." The female song is a plaintive swooping call, rising to a crescendo - her great call; the male calls with a high-pitched "quaver song." The male usually takes the lead in attacking other gibbons encountered, although they rarely actual fight. Playful 'biting' matches, and which can be painful to a human, seem to determine rank order of mature juveniles within the group. Even serious bites don't seem to hurt them because of their dense fur.Female gibbons carefully nurture their young. Eyes are open at birth and body and limbs are bare; very dependent on their mother for warmth. Many are white at birth and do not become black or final color until 2-4 years old. Babies can grasp their mother's fur to cling to the mother's belly soon after birth. Infants are hairless except for a cap of fur on the crown. Babies usually have light hair at first and darker hair develops as they grow older. They are weaned at about 1 year old. Young gibbons stay with their mother for about 6 years. The young then venture out (or are forced out) to start a new family group of their own.


Gibbons are extremely acrobatic and agile. They spend most of their life in the trees. They move by swinging gracefully from branches and vines; this is called brachiating. When they branchiate, they use four fingers of their hands like a hook (but not the thumb). They swing from branch to branch (horizontally or vertically), with legs flexed under body; using arms alternately and keeping hand bent in hook shape, and movements appear effortless. They can also walk along small branches high up in the air, like tightrope walkers; they use outstretched arms to help keep their balance. Gibbons climb when moving slowly and feeding. Gibbons can also leap acrobatically across large gaps in the tree canopy from tree branch to tree branch; gibbons have been known to leap over 30 feet (9 m) in a single jump. The gibbon is the only anthropoid ape to walk on its hind limbs only, usually raising its arms for balance. Gibbons cannot swim and avoid the water. When on the ground (which is rare), gibbons walk biped ally (on two legs).These are the most active of all gibbons. They move faster, more quietly, and farther each day than any other forest apes or monkeys. Brachiating comprises 90% of loco motor activity. Adaptations include precision of movement, incredible eye-hand coordination and dexterity. This remarkable agility makes a healthy adult gibbon virtually invulnerable to predation.


The white-handed gibbon is distinguished by its musical howl. They are quiet during the day but commonly howl at sunrise and sunset. They are very vocal, making loud "whoop" sounds. Their loud resonant songs can be heard up to 1/2 mile away. Songs by far excel those of all other species because of a sound-amplifying throat sac. Duet ting is the singing between the male and female, and is dominated by the female. This helps to maintain the pair bond between the pair and to maintain the territory. Each morning upon awakening a family group of gibbons loudly announces its presence in the forest, using a territorial hooting call and menacing gestures. This call warns other gibbons to stay out of their territory (and especially away from the local fruit trees). This noisy display takes 1/2 hour or more every morning and is usually started by the adult female. The male and female have different calls.In friendly greetings, corners of mouth are drawn back, revealing teeth, and tongue is sometimes protruding. In anger, mouth is opened and closed repeatedly, smacking lips and snapping teeth together. Snarling is interpreted as an intention of biting.There are 9 species with 9 different territorial songs. The gibbons seem to be born knowing the songs because they are always the same, and not learned.

White-Handed Gibbon and Baby


Sexually they are similar to other gibbons. Gestation is seven months long and pregnancies are usually of a single young. Young are nursed for approximately two years, and full maturity comes at about 8 years. The life expectancy of the Lar Gibbons in the wild is 30 to 40 years. They have been known to live over 45 years in captivity.

Status: endangered

This species is threatened for a several reasons. These gibbons are hunted for meat in some areas. Live capture for the pet trade also poses a serious problem. In many Asian countries, it is "fashionable" to own your own primate, and this has led to the death of many gibbons either at the time of capture or during transport. The final, and greatest, threat to the gibbon is deforestation. Rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate due to logging and agricultural, leaving forest species with an ever smaller region in which to live. Some efforts are being made to save these primates, such as national parks and reserves, but they are not very effective. Laws protect them from live capture, but they are rarely enforced.Gibbon populations are decreasing; they are threatened with extinction. There are estimated to be about 79,000 lar gibbons (the white-handed or common gibbon). Lar gibbons retain only 10% of their original habitat in protected reserves. In 1987, the IUCN estimated that there were 79,000 lar gibbons but to protect the more endangered species, all are listed as endangered by the USDI (1980) and are on appendix 1 of the CITES, prohibiting commercial trade in gibbons.

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