Witness of the ancient world- Hoolock gibbons

Welcome to the Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, with its tall canopies bearing silent witness to the harsh passages of time. Home to the famous Hoolock gibbon, this area inspires awe while prodding us to do better by the fauna that remains in these forests.

North eastern forest of India are home of various endangered species including only species of ape, Western Hoolock gibbon. This species is listed as endangered species in IUCN Red list with less than 5000 individual left in wild. This is a tailless primate with long arms, hanging from high branches they feed primarily fig and other fruits, swinging through the isolated and evergreen forest canopy of northeast. Some of this primate species are also known to live in west of the Chindwin river of Myanmar. One of the largest groups of around 100 individuals with 26 families are currently residing in Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.

In Assam, the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is famous for this ape family. The Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary, also known as the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, is an evergreen forest located in Jorhat, Assam. The sanctuary was officially renamed in 1997. The upper canopy of the forest is dominated by the hoolong tree which is the state tree of Assam and hence the name “Hoollongapar” originating from the dominant species of flora. The forest has been surrounded by tea gardens and small villages. Apart from the Gibbon, there are 7 other different species of primates over here. This area is also famous for the only nocturnal primate, the Bengal slow loris. The other primates include the Stump tailed macaque, Northern pig tailed macaque, Eastern Assamese macaque, Rhesus macaque, and caped langur. Apart from primates,  fauna found at the sanctuary are Asian Elephant, tiger, wild boar, three different type of civet, four types of squirrel, several types of snakes and more than 200 species of bird.

A male hoolock gibbon hanging in canopy of the woodland

A male hoolock gibbon hanging in canopy of the woodland

There are approximately 26 families of the Western Hoolock Gibbon known to live in the forests of the  Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. They spend the majority of their time up in the canopy, hanging from high branches above the ground.  They feed primarily on fig and other fruits, they consume water from tree holes. Capable of their reaching speed upto 20km/hr and covering upto 6 meters in just one swing , they are the fastest flightless animal in the canopy. Hence they are called acrobats of the forest. Spotting Gibbons is never easy, as they are almost entirely arboreal and comes down to the ground only in some exceptional situations. They swing from tree to tree in a mode of locomotion known as Brachiation. During the mating season there have been reports of them coming down to eye level. Males and female gibbons are simililar in their size but males are easily identified by the coloration of their black fur  with a distinctive white brow, while the females have dark brown hair on the side of their face. Females are totally different in colour of their body. Gibbons are famous for their territorial call which reverberate through the forest and used by individuals to attact mates. Females give birth to one offspring every 2-3 years and it remains within the family group for 8-10 years.

In 2009 Gibbon was considered to be one of the 25 most endangered primates. The most significant threatthing to the sanctuary is a train track that divides the forest into two different parts. This train track separates not just the land, but also the Gibbons The Assam Forest Department took initiative to join the terrain-divided gibbons by building an arboreal bridge. This bridge was hoped to connect the gibbons on either side of the train track that divides the sanctuary, but this technique is not catching up or popular with the primates as yet. It is known from the forest guard that 3 families are living in one side and the rest live in the other side. The forest guard, Bikash Boruah, mentions that the gibbons of either side are seen rarely to mix. He also complains to us of scarcity of water in the area. This is a big problem in the sanctuary, since water deficit negatively impacts wildlife. The Forest Department have made some artificial ponds in the forest area to combat this problem.

Day by day these beautiful creatures of nature are threatened by human interference. Now a much lesser number of them are left in the forests of Assam. The Government and authorities should make some strict rule for protecting this animal, and help implement the rules with care, otherwise one day we may lose them all.



Cover Photo: A lady hoolock gibbon with her new born baby

Read also: Doomed holes for distressed felines 

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About the Author /

Priyanku is a 20 years old BSc student in the Department of Botany at Sibasagar College, Joysagar, Assam He has been engaged in wildlife photography for the past 3 years, and hopes to work for wildlife conservation in the future.


  • Ankuran Dewgharia

    February 27, 2019

    Very nice..
    proud of u Boy!
    Keep shining!

  • Tejyodipta gogoi

    February 27, 2019

    Great brother great

  • Jolly Buragohain

    February 27, 2019

    Good job,proud of you😊

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