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World’s Rarest Primate, the Critically Endangered Hainan Gibbon, Returns From Brink of Extinction

Up until recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members still existing.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – Until very recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members of the species existing in a tiny patch of land on a tropical island at China’s southernmost tip.

But thanks to the devoted work of a team of conservationists, the ultra-rare Hainan Gibbon appears to have a much brighter future, with their numbers swelling to 30 individuals as of this year.

The Hainan Gibbon is a not only one of the world’s rarest apes and rarest primates, but it’s also one of the rarest animals on the face of the Earth, largely restricted to a small patch of rainforest at the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

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Gibbons can be found in forests across Southeast Asia. Like other gibbons, the Hainan gibbon swings rapidly from tree to tree and mostly rely on fruit such as lychee and figs for its diet. The males have jet-black fur with white patches on their cheeks, while mature females are a rich golden orange. Their faces are tender, and their eyes seem to reflect an intelligent curiosity about their surroundings.

“They are really intelligent animals. When they look at you, it feels like they are trying to communicate,” Philip Lo Yik-fui told South China Morning Post. Lo has been helping to lead conservation efforts through the Hong Kong-based NGO, Kadoorie Conservation China.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – which has included the species on its Red List as “Critically Endangered” – the Hainan gibbon used to exist in high numbers, with researchers estimating that over two thousand individuals populated the island.

However, the species’ numbers fell precipitously in the second half of the 20th century thanks to climate factors as well as massive deforestation resulting from China’s push toward prosperity and industrialization. Hunters and poachers also targeted the highly intelligent and social gibbons, either for the illegal pet trade, food, or for traditional medicine.

By 2003, only 13 wild gibbons divided into two family groups remained – a result of not only the diminishing quality of their habitat but also their naturally slow birth rate.

Over the years, however, Kadoorie Conservation Cina has been monitoring the gibbons, working hard to discourage poachers, and also planting over 80,000 fig and lychee trees to link the populations of the famously shy gibbons and expand their habitat.

And with the gibbons now reproducing at a stable pace, Lo is hopeful that once they get the gibbons’ numbers above 50, their IUCN designation can change from being critically endangered to simply “endangered.”

“Our biggest goal now is to help expand the gibbons’ territory so the whole species won’t be wiped out if natural disasters occur,” Lo said.

Yet concerns remain about the genetic health of the Hainan Gibbons, who are mostly either half-siblings or full-siblings – meaning that their gene pool is far too narrow at present.

However, Lo is proud that his group’s efforts have stabilized things for the remaining Hainan Gibbons. His next goal is to continue expanding the creature’s territory so that if a typhoon or other natural disaster strikes, the whole species won’t be wiped out in one fell swoop.

The Kadoorie Conservation China team has also recruited ex-hunters from the community, who have a wealth of experience about local forests, to keep an eye on the gibbons and take part in conservation efforts.

Lo said: “We try and instill a sense of pride in the locals, and the ex-hunters are really satisfied with their work now.That is the main point of conservation work, it’s just as much about the people. And now people who were on opposing sides are teammates working together to protect the gibbons.”

Animals

World’s Only White Giraffe Gets GPS Tracker After Poachers Killed His Family

Elias Marat

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The only known white giraffe in the world has been fitted with a tracking device to keep poachers away after its entire family was killed.

The unique creature has an extremely rare genetic trait known as leucism, which results in its white color. Unlike albinism, the loss of pigmentation is partial. However, the unusual coloration makes the animal desirable to unscrupulous poachers seeking a rare find in the wilderness.

The giraffe is currently staying at the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in southeast Kenya. Earlier this month, conservationists fitted one of his horns with a GPS tracking device to ensure its survival, reports the BBC.

Conservationists say that the giraffe is the last of its kind that exists in the world, and have expressed concern that poachers could come to kill him after his two family members were killed in March.

The two relatives, a female and a seven-month-old calf with similar white skin, were found dead in a conservation zone in Garissa County in northeast Kenya, a large unfenced area where the male giraffe resides.

The three white giraffes had been “an immense source of pride in the Ishaqbini community” and garnered international attention over the years, the trust said in a Tuesday statement.

“The giraffe’s grazing range has been blessed with good rains in the recent past and the abundant vegetation bodes well for the future of the white male,” said Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy.

The nonprofit group added that the tracking device would allow conservationists to see hourly updates on the whereabouts of the giraffe, granting rangers the ability to “keep the unique animal safe from poachers.”

The Kenya Wildlife Society, the main conservationist group overseeing the plight of wild animals in the eastern African nation, said that it was happy to assist any efforts on the ground to safeguard “unique wildlife like the only known white giraffe.”

The extremely rare creature was first spotted in March 2016, roughly two months after a reported sighting in neighboring Tanzania.

White giraffes appeared in world headlines one year later after the mother and her calf were caught on camera at the Garissa County conservancy.

Giraffes are native to over 15 African countries and are the world’s tallest mammals, reaching heights exceeding 18 feet. They primarily reside in savanna and woodland habitats, and subsist on a diet that includes flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems.

However, giraffes are coveted by poachers for their meat, skin, and body parts.

Around 40 percent of the giraffe population has been lost in the last 30 years, with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) blaming poaching and wildlife tracking for the precipitous decline. Fortunately, many giraffe populations enjoy various degrees of legal protection and are the focus of conservation efforts in their range states.

There are over 68,000 giraffes across the world, according to the foundation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List classifies the species as vulnerable, with one of the main threats to the animal coming from poaching as well as habitat loss due to uncontrolled mining and land conversion.

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Animals

Playful Baby Elephant Caught Eating Sugarcane, Innocently Tries Hiding Behind Narrow Pole

Elias Marat

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An adorable baby elephant has been captured in photos while trying its best to hide behind a narrow light pole after being caught red-handed feasting upon sugar cane in a farm in Thailand.

The super-cute calf was caught on camera in Chiang Mai, large city in the mountainous north of the country where sugar cane is widely cultivated.

The playful baby elephant apparently believed that it could hide behind the slender light pole after humans approached it, in spite of its body being significantly wider and obviously noticeable.

When locals entered the farmer’s field with flashlights and approached the elephant, the innocent calf apparently attempted to stand perfectly still in the vain hope that it wouldn’t be detected.

The baby elephant’s hijinks, captured perfectly in photos, soon became the source of uproarious laughter for locals, Thai citizens, and countless people online as it made its rounds through social networks.

Some 7,000 elephants live in Thailand, with about half of the creatures living in captivity. The wild mammals live in the deep jungle and legal protections in national parks, but there is also significant friction with humans who gather and cultivate food in rural zones.

As a result, poor people including older rural folk and agricultural workers tend to have a negative outlook about the large mammals and see them as pests, according to a study by Thai foundation Bring the Elephant Home (BTEH). About 70 percent of the plantation owners working for sugar industry giants even wish that elephants would be totally eradicated, compared to 34 percent of households.

Elephants are a protected species in Thailand, and the killing of elephants carries a maximum prison term of up to three years and a 1,000 baht (USD $33) fine.

The elephant is a national animal of the country, and is seen as representing strength, resilience, and loyalty. The creature has held an important place in Thai and Buddhist culture and has been the basis of folklore in the Southeast Asian nation throughout its modern history. Elephants can be found in the clothing, popular culture, and even beer bottles of the country, and were even featured on the national flag until 1917.

Until 1989, elephants played a crucial role as laborers in the country’s commercial logging industries. When the country suspended logging, unemployed elephants could be found meandering across farmland or seeking shelter in highway underpasses.

Modern urban Thai architecture also features the huge mammal, with one example being the iconic Elephant Building, a high-rise that was built in 1997 in Bangkok and is shaped like an elephant.

Elephants in Thailand belong to the Indian elephant subspecies and the family of Asian elephants, which can be distinguished from their African counterparts by their noticeably smaller ears.

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Animals

Indigenous Community in Canada Mourns After Poachers Kill Sacred White “Spirit Moose”

Elias Marat

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First Nation communities in Canada are in a state of shock and anger after a rare white moose, seen as a “spirit” animal to indigenous people, was killed by suspected poachers.

The rare white moose, seen as a sacred creature by the native culture, was killed by poachers near the city of Timmins, Ontario, leaving locals in a state of mourning.

The corpses of two female moose, including a majestic white cow, were discovered shot and discarded along a service road with their entire bodies intact, including the head, reports The Guardian.

Local residents have traditionally revered the white moose population – as wel as white animals including bison, ravens, and grizzly bears – who have a ghostly pallor due to a recessive gene, and have been sighted moving quietly among the aspen and pine forests of the region.

Community leaders are perplexed about the seemingly needless execution of the creature.

“Everybody is outraged and sad. Why would you shoot it? No one needs one that bad,” remarked Chief Murray Ray of the Flying Post First Nation. “If you have a license to shoot a cow moose, you could shoot another one. Just leave the white ones alone.”

The incident is now under investigation by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Signs around the area warn against killing the creatures, which are now under legal protection under laws that locals fought hard for.

“I really hope they find the people that are responsible for this and they’re charged,” Murray added.

Troy Woodhouse, a fellow member of the Flying Post First Nation community, noted that anyone who sees the moose in person would likely realize “how much of a sacred animal it is and rare and majestic to see.”

“It saddens me that somebody would take such a beautiful animal,” Woodhouse added. “Nobody knows exactly how many are in the area, so the loss of a single spirit moose is one too many.”

Woodhouse fondly remembers the first time that he saw a young white bull moose alongside his wife near the home of his grandfather’s home, which is also in the region.

“It was a sign that he’s watching over us on the land. It was very special to me,” he said.

Woodhouse has personally volunteered to give CAD $1,000 to anyone who volunteers any information that leads to the hunters’ arrest, or for them if the killing was a mistake and they decide to turn themselves in. Others, including animal rights activists and a drilling company, have contributed CAD $8,000 (USD $6,121) for a pool that will go to anyone who can help find the culprit.

“Maybe hunters tried to get one moose and got the other by accident,” he added. “If a person does come forward and admit what they did, I would put my portion towards any of their legal fees. There’s so much negativity in the world today. It’s nice to just see some people banding together and trying to turn this into something positive.”

The creatures are extremely rare in the region. Wildlife photographer Mark Clement, who says that he has seen at least four over the years, estimates that only 30 of the white moose reside in the area.

This isn’t the first time that the slaying of the creatures has outraged indigenous communities in Canada.

In 2013, three hunters killed a white moose in Nova Scotia and faced charges by the Mi’kmaq people. They were eventually forced to return the animal’s pelt to Mi’kmaq authorities so that a days-long mourning ceremony could be held to honor the rare and majestic creatures.

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