Although conservationists say they remain under threat from habitat loss and hunting, the Kingdom’s yellow-cheeked gibbon population is considered stable. 

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province is home to an estimated 1,129 individuals, the highest population of the endangered species that remains in the wild, and far more than exist in Laos or Vietnam, the only other nations where the rare apes can be found.

Yellow-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus gabriellae) are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. 

Interestingly, they are born a buff yellow colour to match their mother’s fur, but at the age of six months old, the young turn black. The males remain dark in colour for the rest of their lives, while the females return to yellow once they reach sexual maturity at between six to eight years of age.

The stable population over the past 12 years reveals an optimistic trend, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia. 

The society has worked closely with the Ministry of Environment, local communities and authorities, and other conservation partners to protect this rare species for more than a decade.

“However, the gibbon is still under threat from habitat loss, poaching and people keeping them as pets,” it warned, in a social media post.

An adult female yellow-cheeked gibbon swings through the trees with her baby attached. WCS

WCS Cambodia called for people to play their part in protecting the species – and other wildlife – by not consuming bushmeat or participating in deforestation activities.

Mondulkiri provincial environment department director Chao Bunthoeun claimed that forest crimes in the protected areas have declined so far this year.

“Both logging and land encroachment activities have decreased a lot because of our patrols and due to the environment ministry’s educational campaigns. This has raised the awareness of the public,” he said.

He noted that the Jahoo Gibbon Camp project, an ecotourism enterprise located at Andong Kraleong village, in O'Raing district's Sen Monorom commune, was playing an active role in the conservation of the rare gibbons. 

Both domestic and international tourists should visit, he added.

USAID Morodok Baitang is supporting the camp’s efforts to protect the gibbon from extinction.

Rangers in the Jahoo Gibbon Camp monitor the local population - the largest in the world - as well as their habitat and the other wildlife in the area. WCS

Through World Hope International’s Jahoo Gibbon Camp research team, it has successfully extended the gibbon habitat management area by an additional 445.5 hectares in the first semester of this year, expanding the Jahoo area to 691.3 hectares.

The project aims to continue to expand the gibbon habitat, with the goal of reaching 1,000 hectares by the end of the year.

According to USAID Morodok Baitang, the latest expansion created room for increased research activities, as well as broadening the scope of the Jahoo forest watch. This involves direct involvement in protecting the critical gibbon habitat against illegal logging, hunting, and forest clearance.

Jahoo Gibbon Camp​, which belongs to an indigenous community, provides sustainable financial benefits to the community through the sale of tour packages to see the gibbons. In return, the community protects the rare apes, as well as their habitat and other wildlife.