The Gibbon is the smallest of the great apes standing three feet high, and weighing under fourteen pounds. It is considered the lowest in intelligence.
On the ground, the lithe, slender gibbon appears awkward and out of place. It moves along with difficulty, holding its long arms over its head and hurrying forward to keep its balance. But it is well named Hylobates or "tree-walker." Once in the trees, it proceeds with facile rhythm and grace as it speeds through the forest, swinging from branch to branch. It can walk erect along a horizontal limb, gripping it with the great toes. No other ape or monkey can travel through the trees with the speed of the gibbon.
The gibbon frequently gathers its food as it hangs from a branch by one arm. Gibbons subsist largely on fruits, leaves, and the tender shoots of plants, but they will eat insects, too, and are especially fond of spiders. They also, no doubt, rob bird nests of eggs and nestlings. Often they loot orchards, and, when surprised, swing away through the trees, carrying the fruit with their feet. Forewarned, the speedy gibbon is safe from any of its foes. The leopard is its archenemy; on the ground occasionally a big cat will surprise it in an unguarded moment.
This ape has a tremendous voice that is fond of using in the early morning. When feeding, it lets out a succession of low, staccato, almost whistling, cries followed by a prolonged series of ear-splitting shrieks that make the forest ring. You may hear these cries a mile away.
Gibbons travel about in groups ranging from a few individuals to a dozen or more. They raise a considerable noise that disturbs their fellow inhabitants of the jungle. The family appears to be fairly monogamous. The mother produces a single baby about seven months after mating time (not nine months, as is the case with the chimpanzee and other great apes.) The infant develops slowly. For the first half-year of its life it clings to its mother's body, only very gradually learning to walk and look after itself. When the young male shows signs of sexual maturity, he is usually forced to leave the family group. Males are more pugnacious than females.
There are two main groups of gibbons. Hylobates is exclusively oriental, being found only in southeastern Asia; the western limits of its range are the hills of Bhutan, between India and Tibet. Many species are black or brown, but one sees notable differences in color and size among these animals, as indicated by their names: the White-handed Gibbon, Black-crested Gibbon, Dark-handed Gibbon, Dwarf Gibbon, and Grey Gibbon. The Hoolock Gibbon or Assam and Yunnan may be black or yellowish or reddish buff.
The Siamang, Symphalangus syndactylus, the largest of all the gibbons, is native to Sumatra and the Malay States, where it lives at altitudes of two thousand to six thousand feet. The black creature has a tremendous reach, with an armspread of five feet, yet the head and body length is only three feet. It is peculiar in that its second and third toes are combined in a web. The siamang also has a great voice -- an inflatable sac in the throat is probably responsible for its volume.
The three Gibbon stuffed animals shown above can be purchased at our sponsor's website: www.jeanniescottage.com. They include a Gibbon plush toy made by Zoology 101, a Hanging Gibbon stuffed animal from Wild Republic and a Gibbon Magnet plush toy made by Ganz.