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Indonesia Races to Protect Endangered Gibbons in Java

    2021-10-11

    Indonesian officials are seeking to protect a small environment on Java island that is home to an endangered population of gibbons.

    Also known as the silvery gibbon, the primate is only found on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island.

    Silvery gibbons (Hylobates moloch), also known as the Javan gibbons, are pictured sitting on a tree in the Petungkriono forest in Pekalongan, Central Java, Indonesia, September 19, 2021. (REUTERS/Stringer)
    Silvery gibbons (Hylobates moloch), also known as the Javan gibbons, are pictured sitting on a tree in the Petungkriono forest in Pekalongan, Central Java, Indonesia, September 19, 2021. (REUTERS/Stringer)

    The animals help keep forest areas healthy by spreading seeds around the area. But conservation groups say the gibbons’ habitat is increasingly under threat because of climate change and human activities.

    The local group SwaraOwa says it observes a population of about 400 gibbons living in a 73-kilometer protected area in the Petungkriyono Forest in central Java.

    Researcher Arif Setiawan said as many as 70 groups are often seen in the forest, compared to about 50 in 2012. But he warned that their habitat is still under threat. "The real threat now is the integrity of the forest itself because of the increasing number of human activities," he said.

    The American-based group Conservation International estimates there are around 4,000 Javan gibbons left. They are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

    SwaraOwa and the government hold meetings with members of the local community each month in an effort to raise awareness of the issue. They have also posted signs in the area stating that hunting and logging are not permitted in the forest.

    In one project, officials work with local village chiefs to produce shade-grown coffee as a business. This kind of growing can be done without harming forest land.

    SwaraOwa also operates nature tours, including overnight visits, for visitors coming to the area. Those efforts aim to provide a way for locals to earn income without harming the environment.

    The more difficult issue to deal with is climate change. “It is still raining when it is supposed to be the dry season and that will eventually impact the vegetation," said local forestry official Untoro Tri Kurniawan.

    "Instead of fruiting season, leaves grow," he said. "So, the flower that is supposed to become fruit would fall and eventually impact the animals in Petungkriyono," he added.

    I’m Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    primate – n. a member of the group of animals that includes monkeys and people

    habitat n. the natural environment of a plant or animal

    conservation – n. the act of keeping something safe from harm or from being damaged or destroyed

    integrity – n. the state of being whole and undivided

    tourn. a visit to and around a place, area or country

    impact – n. the effect a person, even or situation has on someone or something

    vegetationn. plants and trees that grow in a given area