Black-crested gibbon (Nomascus concolor)

Black-crested gibbon male calling
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Black-crested gibbon fact file

Black-crested gibbon description

GenusNomascus (1)

The black-crested gibbon is one of the world’s most endangered primates and may be on the very brink of extinction (4). Males and females are strikingly different in appearance with males almost completely black, but sometimes with white or buff cheeks, and females a golden or buff colour with variable black patches, including a black streak on the head (2). The common name of this species comes from the tuft of longer fur on the crown of the head (5). Both sexes have the characteristic slender shape of the ‘lesser ape’ with long arms and legs, grasping hands and feet, and no tail (6). A variety of calls are produced, which are amplified with the aid of a throat sac below the chin; males and females engage in duets, in which males grunt, squeal and whistle whilst females sing rising notes and twitter (2).

Also known as
black crested gibbon, black gibbon, crested gibbon, Indochinese gibbon.
Hylobates concolor, Nomascus harlani, Nomascus henrici, Nomascus niger.
Gibbon À Favoris Blancs, Gibbon Noir.
Head-body length: 45 - 64 cm (2)
5.7 kg (2)

Black-crested gibbon biology

Gibbons are forest dwellers and are well known for their habit of swinging between the branches of the rainforest on their long arms, a method of locomotion known as brachiation (6). Gibbons are also adept however, at walking upright, both on the ground and in the trees (2). Black-crested gibbons live in small family groups (1), consisting of a monogamous male and female and their offspring (6). These apes are predominantly arboreal and the group forages and sleeps amongst the trees (2). Led by the female, the breeding pair partakes in vigorous bouts of singing in the morning, which hauntingly echo through the forest. It is believed that these ‘duets’ are essential in pair bond formation and reinforcement, but also serve to advertise the presence of the group within the territory (2). A single young is born every two to three years and the infant is usually weaned once it reaches two years old (2).

Black-crested gibbons feed preferentially on ripe sugar rich fruit such as figs (Ficus species), although they also supplement their diet with leaves and insects (2).


Black-crested gibbon range

The black-crested gibbon is found in South East Asia, and the greatly reduced and fragmented range includes Vietnam, China and Laos. Much confusion surrounds the taxonomy of this species but at present four different subspecies are recognised (7). The central Yunnan (Nomascus concolor jingdongensis) and the west Yunnan black-crested gibbon (N. c. furvogaster) are both found within the Yunnan Province of China (8). The Laotian black-crested gibbon (N. c. lu) is found in Laos, the Tonkin black-crested gibbon (N. c. concolor) is found in Northern Vietnam (4).


Black-crested gibbon habitat

The black-crested gibbon inhabits evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous forest, in subtropical and montane regions (1).


Black-crested gibbon status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). Four subspecies are currently recognised, all of which are classified as Critically Endangered: the Tonkin black-crested gibbon (Nomascus concolor concolor), West Yunnan black-crested gibbon (N. c. furvogaster), Central Yunnan black-crested gibbon (N. c. jingdongensis), and Laotian black-crested gibbon (N. c. lu) (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Black-crested gibbon threats

Deforestation has swept across South East Asia at an alarming rate as trees are logged for timber or to make way for agriculture and development. Gibbons throughout the region have undergone dramatic declines due principally to this habitat loss, but also as a result of hunting (4). The fragmentation of their habitat causes groups to become separated from the remaining population (2), and it is estimated that about 75 percent of the black crested gibbon’s original habitat has already been lost (9). The taxonomic confusion surrounding this species makes population estimates particularly difficult but at least two of the subspecies are today at critically low levels (1).


Black-crested gibbon conservation

The black-crested gibbon is protected from international trade by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). Fauna and Flora International (FFI) have been studying the species in Northern Vietnam since 1999. They have also been involved in a community awareness programmes in the area and there is pressure to designate the last stronghold of the species (the Che Tao Forest) as a Gibbon Sanctuary (4). In China, the largest population of the Central Yunnan black crested gibbon subspecies occurs within the Wuliang Mountain National Reserve (4). It is vital that any remaining viable populations and habitats are protected or this previously successful ape is in grave danger of disappearing.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Learn more about gibbons and support their conservation at:

For further information on the black-crested gibbon, visit:



Authenticated by Dr David J. Chivers, University of Cambridge.



Living in trees.
In some Primates, a method of locomotion when the animal swings hand over hand from branch to branch.
Mating system in which a male and female mate exclusively with each other. The pair bond may last for one season or may be life-long.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
  2. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, London.
  3. CITES (September, 2002)
  4. Gibbon Research Lab (September, 2002)
  5. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  6. Ankel-Simons, F. (2000) Primate Anatomy: An Introduction. Academic Press, San Diego.
  7. Chivers, D.J. (2005) Pers. comm.
  8. Geissmann, T. (1997) New sounds from the crested gibbons (Hylobates concolor group): First results of a systematic revision. In: Zissler, D. (Ed) Verhandlungen der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft: Kurzpublikationen – Short Communications. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart.
  9. Geissmann, T. (1990) Systematics of crested gibbons (Hylobates concolor group). Abstracts, International Symposium on Primate Conservation in China. Kunming Institute of Zoology, Kunming.

Image credit

Black-crested gibbon male calling  
Black-crested gibbon male calling

© Dr. Fan Peng-Fei / Fauna & Flora International

Fauna & Flora International (FFI)


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