September 22, 2010

New Gibbon Species Found In Indochina

A new endangered species of ape was discovered in the tropical rainforests of Asia by its unique song, German scientists said Tuesday.

The new species of crested gibbon, considered one of the most endangered primate species in the world, is found around the rainforests of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is called the Northern Buffed-cheeked Gibbon, Nomascus annamensis, a statement by the German Primate Center (DPZ) said.

Christian Roos, from the DPZ, said the discovery was a "minor sensation."

"An analysis of the frequency and tempo of their calls, along with genetic research, show that this is, in fact, a new species," the statement said.

The unique song is used to defend its territory or "might even be a precursor of the music humans make," the statement added.

The male is covered in black fur that looks almost silvery in sunlight. His chest is brownish and his cheeks deep golden orange in color. The female is an orange-beige color.

Crested gibbons are also found in southern China. There have been six known species of crested gibbon until the recent discovery, bringing the species number to seven.

Gibbons are endangered mainly because of illegal hunting. The DPZ reports that gibbons are most often kept as pets or processed into traditional medicines, and some are even used as food.

Roos said many of the species only have 100 or so individuals. Scientists have no idea how many gibbons of the new species might be alive, but are continuing to study them to hopefully figure that out, Roos told AFP.

Gibbons belong to the ape family along with gorillas and chimpanzees, which are human's closest relatives.

News of the animal's discovery is published in the Vietnamese Journal of Primatology.

Image Courtesy Tilo Nadler, Endangered Primate Rescue Center, Vietnam