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About Gibbons

Flight of the Gibbon™ was named after the acrobatic, adventurous and endangered Gibbons who make their home in the Thai rainforest.

Adult Gibbons

Gibbons are rare, small, slender, long-armed, tree-dwelling apes. Gibbons are arboreal, spending most of their lives in trees. Because they are so dextrous while moving in the trees, almost no predators can catch them. There are nine species of gibbons. Because of the rapid deforestation of their habitats, gibbons are an endangered species.

They differ from great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans) in being smaller, by not making nests, and in certain anatomical details, in which they superficially more closely resemble monkeys than great apes do. Gibbons also display pair-bonding, unlike most of the great apes.

Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiaton, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as high as 56 km/h (35 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (26 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance. When they brachiate, they use four fingers of their hands like a hook (but not the thumb. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, nonflying mammals. They are extremely acrobatic and agile. 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 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.

Gibbons have a small, round head, very long arms (the arms are longer than the legs), and a short, slender body. Like all apes, they have no tail. They 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). Some species of gibbons have a white face ring, a band of white face completely surrounding their face. Gibbons have a hairless face with dark eyes, small nostrils, and jet-black skin. Their hands are very much like humans; they have four long fingers plus a smaller opposable thumb. Their feet have five toes, including an opposable big toe. Gibbons can grasp and carry things with both their hands and their feet. When they swing through the trees (called brachiating), they use four fingers of their hands like a hook (but they do not use the thumb for this). Like other apes, gibbons groom one another (they clean the hair of a family member).

Interesting Facts:

  • Gibbons have senses very similar to humans, including hearing, sight (including color vision), smell, taste, and touch.
  • Male gibbons are slightly larger than the females. Males are about 3 ft (90 cm) long and weigh about 15 pounds (7 kg).
  • Gibbons are omnivores (eating plants and meat). They forage for food in the forests during the day, eating fruit (which constitutes about 75% of their diet), leaves, flowers, seeds, tree bark, and tender plant shoots. They also eat insects, spiders, bird eggs, and small birds.
  • They 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 often  while dangling above the water from a thin tree branch. The siamang, the largest and darkest species of gibbon, has an inflatable throat sac (called a gular sac). This sac can be inflated to be as big as the siamang's head. It acts a resonating chamber for the vocal chords, making the sounds even louder.
  • Gibbons cannot swim and avoid the water. When on the ground (which is rare), gibbons walk bipedally (on two legs).

Where to See Them
Gibbons are social animals that are active during the day so there is good chance you will see some while you fly.. They live in small, stable family groups consisting of a mated pair (a male and a female who mate for life) and their immature offspring (juveniles, gibbons less than 7 years old). They are extermely territorial so don't try and get too close!

Sleeping
Unlike other apes, gibbons do not make "sleeping nests." They simply sleep (alone or with a few gibbons huddled together) in a fork between branches. They sleep sitting upright, resting on tough pads located on their rear ends (these pads are called ischial callosities).

Territory
A gibbon family has a territory of about 30 to 50 acres of old-growth rainforest. 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.

Life Span
Gibbons live about 35-40 years.

Baby Gibbons

Baby Gibbons

Gibbon mates usually stay together for life. They are fully grown and able to reproduce at 12-13 years old. Female gibbons are pregnant for about 7 months and usually have a single baby at a time; twins are rare. Newborn gibbons are hairless except for a small cap of fur on the top of the head.

Female gibbons carefully nurture their young. Babies can grasp their mother's fur to cling to the mother's belly soon after birth. 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 by the same-sex parent) to start a new family group of their own.

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Flight of the Gibbon Rehabilitation and Release Program

Gibbon populations are decreasing; they are threatened with extinction. Gibbons are losing their natural habitat because human agriculture is encroaching on it. Population numbers are decreasing. There are estimated to be about 79,000 lar gibbons (the white-handed or common gibbon).

The Gibbon Rehabilitation and Release Program, which has been operational for 6 years, is a joint venture between Flight of the Gibbon and the Thai Government. We are committed to re-establishing the Gibbon population in its natural habitat.

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