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Bornean Gibbon

Borneo, the third largest island on Earth, has long been considered a wildlife haven: with vast tracts of luxurious rainforest and stunning high-mountain peaks, such as Mount Kinabalu – which, at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft), stands aloft as the highest peak in the entire Malay Archipelago.

Much has been written over the years about Borneo’s fabulous wildlife; and, naturally, species such as Orangutan come to mind. This extraordinary species of Great Ape has unsurprisingly fascinated many visitors over the years; however, the island also hosts a number of other highly specialised and localised primate species, such as Maroon, Silvered, Hose’s and Sabah Grey Langur, Proboscis Monkey, Long-tailed and Pig-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris, Western Tarsier and Bornean Gibbon. 

Gibbons are purely an Asian group of Apes belonging to the family Hylobatidae. They typically occur in tropical and subtropical rainforests ranging from north-east India to southern China, and south through south-east Asia to Indonesia (including the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, and Java). Historically, the family contained one genus, but is now split into four genera comprising 18 different species. Unlike the Great Apes – such as Chimps, Gorillas and Orangutans – Gibbons don’t make nests, and differ further by being smaller and exhibiting low sexual dimorphism. Gibbons are also exceptional at moving through their treetop habitat; and are often regarded as the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals. They will often swing from branch to branch for distances up to 15 m (50 ft), and at speeds as fast as 55 km/h (34 mph)!

The Bornean Gibbon is endemic to the island of Borneo; and while still fairly easy to find in protected reserves and national parks, it has been recently upgraded to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Research has shown that the Bornean Gibbon population has crashed by more than 50% over the past 3 generations (45 years), and the species is now severely threatened. Sadly, habitat loss on the island has been extensive and is still ongoing: as massive areas are lost on a daily basis due to continued logging and the clearing of forest for oil palm. The Bornean Gibbon is often split into 4 different species, with those in the province of Sabah known as North Borneo Gibbon – the species featured in the image. Other species are White-bearded Gibbon – which is found in W Kalimantan; Muller’s Gibbon – which is still fairly numerous in hill forest of NC and E Kalimantan, and Abbott’s Gibbon – which is the rarest on the island, with only one viable population left on the border of Sarawak and W Kalimantan.

Rockjumper Wildlife’s incredible Borneo tour visits the very best sites, from the extensive lowland forests of the Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve to the scenic Kinabatangan River in the province of Sabah. Here we have excellent chances of finding Bornean Gibbon, as well as the incredible Bornean Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Bearded Pig, Leopard Cat, Sunda Flying Lemur, Black, Thomas’s and Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Slow Loris, Western Tarsier, Malay Civet, and even good chances for rarer species, such as Bornean Clouded Leopard and Flat-headed and Marbled Cat.

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