Gibbon Ape

gibbon

The gibbon is a slender, rather graceful and cunning primate from the gibbon family. The family includes about 16 species of primates. Each of them differs in habitat, food habits, appearance. This type of ape is very interesting to watch, as they are very playful and funny animals. A distinctive feature of gibbons is sociability not only in relation to their relatives, but also in relation to representatives of other animal species, to humans. It is noteworthy that primates express readiness for communication and friendliness by opening their mouths and raising its corners. Thus, the impression of a welcoming smile is created.

Gibbons are the smallest of the apes and are gracile in body form compared to great ape species. Lar gibbon weights range between 4.4-7.6 kg with a height between 42-59 cm. White-cheeked gibbons average 5.6-5.8 kg with a height ranging between 46-64 cm. Siamangs range between 10.7-11.9 kg with a height of 74-89 cm. Their arms are considerably longer than their legs.

All gibbons have ischial callosities, areas of thickened skin on their buttocks that allow them to sit in trees more comfortably. Siamangs are the only gibbon species to have an inflatable throat sac to amplify their territorial calls. Both males and females have long canines to help in defense of their territories.

Gibbons are arboreal and move from branch to branch with speed and great agility by swinging from their arms (brachiating). On the ground, gibbons walk erect with the arms held aloft or behind. They are active during the day and live in small monogamous groups that defend territories in the treetops. They feed mainly on fruit, with varying proportions of leaves and with some insects and bird eggs as well as young birds. Single offspring are born after about seven months’ gestation and take seven years to mature.

White-handed gibbon
Habitat

Gibbon feeding in fruit tree

Gibbons are arboreal and live high up in the trees. Compared to great apes, gibbons are more agile when travelling through the forest canopy and travel at much greater speed. Gibbons are also able to walk upright (bi-pedally) both in the trees and on the ground. Unlike the great apes, gibbons do not build nests.

Diet

The gibbons’ diet largely consists of fruit but they also eat leaves, flowers, seeds, tree bark, plant shots as well as insects, spiders, bird eggs, and they sometimes also eat small birds. Unlike great apes, gibbons have not been observed using tools in the wild.

Social structure

Gibbons live in serial monogamy and maintain stable bonds with the same partner for many years. A gibbon family usually consists of father, mother and their immature offspring. They are, however, only socially monogamous, meaning that they may also mate with other conspecifics than their partner if an opportunity arises.

In most gibbon species, females and males do not differ much in body size but they usually differ in hair colour with the males usually being darker than females. The offspring leaves the family when sexually mature, which is around the age of 8-10 years, to find a mate and start their own family.

Reproduction

Gibbon mother with her baby

Females and males do not differ much in size but in most species, they do differ in hair colour. Female gibbons usually give birth to their first baby at the age of around 8 years. After six months pregnancy, the female gives birth to one single offspring and it takes around 3 years until she will give birth to the next offspring. Like in other apes, fathers are usually not involved in caring for immature offspring. An exception are siamang fathers who care much more and longer for the offspring than the mother.