Conservationists Built Rope Bridges For Gibbons And It Might Help Save The Species

Gibbons are arboreal apes that shared a common ancestor with humans 17 million years ago. But, unlike humans, they do more of their travelling with their hands, not feet. They spend most of their lives swinging from tree to tree. Gibbons can even reach speeds of 34mph! But, gaps in the tree canopy limit their travel, and that's threatening the species' survival.

Gibbons are found in Southeast Asia.

They are now at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. Gaps in the tree canopy can block their way to food and potential mates.

Gibbons can walk upright on the ground if they need to, but they are safer in the trees.

On the ground, there are many risks, such as cars or other animals. In the trees, they climb higher and faster than predators and can scare predators away from the group with their acrobatics.

In July 2014, a typhoon hit mainland China.

It was the strongest typhoon since 1949! It brought a lot of rain and created mudslides that knocked down trees. This created many gaps in the tree canopy where many gibbons lived.

After the mudslides, conservation researchers in China saw gibbons trying to jump the gaps between trees.

Still from Video | Scientific Reports

They say in a paper published in Scientific Reports:

"We observed gibbons showing signs of hesitation when attempting to cross the forest gap, especially the adult females and small juveniles. To avoid accidental injuries or deaths, we constructed a two-pronged canopy rope bridge across the damaged arboreal highway on 06 December 2015"

The rope bridges were a success.

The gibbons crossed between tree canopies safely using the rope bridges. Female and youth particularly benefited from the bridges. They prefer less risky routes. Some males, however, continued to leap across the gaps.

The bridges benefited other animals too.

Still from Video | Scientific Reports

Researchers saw small rodents and flying squirrels use the bridge. These rope bridges best suit gibbons, but other areas of the world use different bridges. Different designs suit different animals.

But for now, these rope bridges offer a cheap temporary solution to help the gibbons bridge the gap between tree canopies.

h/t: Scientific Reports

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