Gibbons are extremely vulnerable to poaching and illegal trade – two threats that, combined with habitat loss and other pressures, have placed these small apes on the precipice of extinction. Population declines are so pervasive that the IUCN Species Survival Commission – the Primates Section on Small Apes (SSA) believes that a gibbon’s species will most likely be the first ape species we will lose in the coming years.
Comprised of over 90 individuals in 21 countries, the SSA’s mission is to save gibbons from extinction. Its teams lead long-term studies across Indonesian Borneo on gibbon behavior, biology, and habitat in peat-swamp forests; they track gibbons in the wild to learn their numbers, population density, and distribution; and they collaborate with local centers in the rescue and care of individuals.
The SSA has joined the Species360 Research Partner Program to access data essential to these programs. Often overshadowed by the plight of larger primates, relatively little is known about gibbons. When fundamental data is lacking, SSA leaders and local rescue centers must rely on assumptions or insights borrowed from orangutan studies to inform care, research and recommendations.
As a member of the Species360 Research Partner Program, the SSA will use Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) data recorded and shared by zoos worldwide to inform gibbon care and conservation programs. Gathered over decades and reflecting the experiences of primate zoo keepers and veterinary teams, the ZIMS data bridges gaps in demographic, husbandry, welfare, and medical information that is essential to protecting and caring for gibbons.
“We lack a specific disease pathology document that is IUCN-approved and freely available to the communities that need it. The information compiled in Species360’s ZIMS by zoo scientists, regarding gibbon welfare and pathologies and disease, will be applied to and help to inform in situ rescue centres and sanctuaries,” said Dr. Susan M. Cheyne, Vice-Chair, IUCN SSC PSG Section on Small Apes (SSA).
The SSA will use ZIMS analytics to better understand gibbons, their care, reproductive and survival timelines, aging, and the prevention, detection and treatment of disease. Among the applications, the SSA will these insights to help complete a much-needed IUCN Best Practice Guidelines document for use by all those protecting gibbons, including local rescue centers caring for individuals confiscated from illegal traders or rescued from captive environments.
The SSA will use Species360 data to provide new insights to those poised to save gibbons. It will help to:
- Better understand the care and management of all ages;
- Track and understand medical conditions such as hepatitis B, malaria, tuberculosis, and more;
- Provide translatable, living guidelines which reflect new insights as we learn about gibbon diseases and parasites in the wild.
“Having this all in one accessible place is absolutely critical” said Dr. Cheyne.
A growing number of researchers worldwide use data from ZIMS to discover new insight to species. Among the participants in the Species360 Research Partner Program are:
- Snow Leopard Trust
- Fort Worth Zoo
- University of California at Berkeley and UC Davis (United States)
- Veterinary Diagnostic Services (within the Manitoba Agriculture Department, Government of Canada)
- Ark Animal Health
- University of Navarro (Spain)
- Babes Bolyai University (Romania)
- Murdoch University (Australia)
As a Species360 Research Partner, these institutions may access aggregated, anonymous data in ZIMS. The data, considered essential to the study of medical treatments, lifespans, reproductive cycles, and population dynamics, is curated and shared by more than 1,200 Species360 institutional members. Animal care and medical teams, as well as dedicated registrars, record and ensure the quality of data.
Learn more about the Species360 Research Partner Program.