Preserving Primates in China

by Rare
Gibbons Badge
Gibbons Badge

Pride Campaign Manager Duan Honglian is hard at work in the Gaoligong Nature Preserve, working to protect the forest habitat of the Hoolock Gibbon. Through the combination of promotional materials and events, she is making great strides towards changing attitudes in the surrounding communities.

Honglian created a wide array of promotional materials to raise awareness of the plight of the gibbons. 500 canvas bags were given out to farmers, each replete with a picture of a gibbon on one side, and the phrase “Love My Homeland, Protect the Gibbon” on the other. The campaign also gave out 1000 notebooks to surrounding communities. These notebooks served several functions, not only did they contain beautiful pictures of the Gaoligong Reserve, but they also provided valuable information on biodiversity, plant and animal resources, and Hoolock Gibbons. In addition to the notebooks, 5000 calendars containing information and pictures regarding the gibbon were given out to farmers. The impact of these calendars cannot be understated, as prior to their distribution, very few farmers had ever even heard of the gibbon. After the calendars were handed out, however, Honglian surveyed the surrounding area and found that 35 of 37 houses visited displayed the calendar. The only two houses that did not display the calendar lacked adhesives powerful enough to combat the wind. Finally, the campaign created badges (see picture) to use during their visits to schools. The badges act as a great motivator to get children involved in the campaign.

The campaign held several promotional events that were extremely successful. In Nan King Village, the campaign worked closely with the primary school to create a cooking competition, puppet show, songs, and other gibbon themed activities. The cooking competition was intense, as it pitted some of the best local cooks against one another in a contest to see who could use the new electric stoves to create the best dish. The puppet show and song (“Love My Home”) saw the participation of Beithou and Azhen, the two pride campaign figures. They were, as always, a huge success with the children of the village. At the conclusion of the event, a survey was taken that resulted in 80% of the attendees saying that they recognized the value of protecting gibbons. Community Pride Week was another event organized by Honglian and her partners. The activities, while fun, also focused on celebrating the construction of household stoves, use of electric stoves, arrival of energy saving light bulbs, and a decrease in firewood consumption. Furthermore, the event was able to show movies about conservation several times. Although this may seem minor, the entertainment provided by a movie was a special treat to people in the area.

Finally, here is a story shared by a mother in the area about the effect electric stoves have had on her and her son’s lives. The son, who is seven years old, did not like going to school. He would often use the excuse that he had to tend to the fire and, therefore, could not go into school that day. The mother, while wanting her child to learn how to read and write, also understood the need to tend the fire, and would often allow her son to stay home. When the Pride Campaign arrived to the area, one of the many things they contributed was electric stoves. As the son learned how to use the cooker, which only took about a week, the need to tend the fire diminished. Now, the son no longer has an excuse not to go to school, and is present every day. The campaign has affected people’s lives in ways that they never originally intended.

Child with badge
Child with badge

When Rare Pride Program Managers traveled to China’s Gaoligong Nature Reserve, the biggest threat to the region and to Hoolock gibbons was obvious: too many communities collecting too much fuelwood.

To mentor Pride campaign managers and support active campaigns throughout the world, Rare staff regularly travel to each Pride campaign site to monitor a campaign’s progress against its scheduled benchmarks. In February 2009, Rare Pride Program Managers Yu and Zhiyong visited Gaoligong Nature Reserve, where Rare, the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve Management Bureau and The Nature Conservancy in China recently launched a Pride campaign led by Campaign Manager Duan Honglian. They were amazed to see the dramatic impact fuel wood collection had on this site, which provides habitat for many threatened species including the Hoolock gibbon. The gibbons are restricted to small patches of remaining habitat and are estimated at less than 150 individuals. With each family in the community collecting enough fuelwood to fortify massive piles (illustrated in the attached photo), it is easy to understand the abundance of barren areas on the hillsides of the reserve.

Yu and Zhiyong reported: “On top of a small hill, we could see the corridor reserve very well. The forest in this area was degraded due to rampant fuel wood collection. The three communities in this region -- Simenqian, Lizhai, and Shatian -- do not have any other available forest. They have to collect fuelwood from the reserve, despite the area being established as a nature reserve. Due to weak enforcement of regulations, the nature reserve staff cannot penalize these communities if they collect wood from the reserve.”

Local experts are so familiar with the biodiversity in the reserve that they can identify each of the gibbons based on their calls. They witness how destroying the forest impacts the wildlife, specifically the Hoolock gibbons. They report that gibbons have changed their seasonal habits, forfeiting movement to certain areas of the reserve since there are no more big trees to climb and hide in. This is a direct result of the forests being cleared for fuelwood.

Thanks to this Pride campaign’s supporters, Honglian finished conducting a threat assessment of her site, which identifies the site’s top conservation threats and issues as a result of extensive interviewing and group discussions with various community members, leaders and groups. She then ranked the threats that jeopardize Gaoligong’s resources and met with local leaders to gain their support of her Pride campaign. With input from partner organizations and Rare staff, Honglian is exploring strategies to reduce fuelwood collection as the campaign moves into its implementation phase. Utilizing alternative forms of energy including biogas is one option, but Honglian will consult with local experts for a suitable long-term solution to protect the communities’ environmental resources, and to protect the environment itself.

Honglian needs help from conservationists like you to continue inspiring conservation of natural resources and protect the Hoolock gibbon in Gaoligong Nature Reserve.


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Location: Arlington, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Boriana Ditcheva
Arlington, VA United States

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