Nomascus gabriellaered-cheeked gibbon(Also: buff-cheeked gibbon)

Geographic Range

Buff-cheeked gibbons are found in southeastern Asia, including southern Laos, eastern Cambodia, and central and southern Vietnam. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005; Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005; Nowak, 1999)


Gibbons are all primarily arboreal species that generally avoid walking on the ground or swimming. The genus name, Hylobates, actually means "dweller in the trees." Nomascus gabriellae is found in tropical evergreen forests. These primates prefer lowland forests, and are rarely seen between above elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 m. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    2,000 (high) m

Physical Description

Gibbons have small body size compared to the other great apes in the family Hominidae. They range in weight between 7 and 11 kg and reach lengths between 60 and 80 cm. They have extremely long arms and relatively long legs. The hands are so long that they appear hook-shaped. The thumbs on the hands are not elongated and are not used for swinging from branch to branch; instead these thumbs are used more for grooming behavior. The body is generally held in an upright position.

In N. gabriellae, males have small, light-buff cheek patches that extend to the bottom of the eye and can be slightly separated at the neck. Females of this species are smaller than other gibbon females and have a black border on the ears. Females are generally brownish-yellow in color and can have a slight grayish tint to the darker hairs on the chest, on edges of fingers and toes, and on the outer forearm. Adult females may have slightly red-brown genital hairs, and usually there is a trace of a white fringe around the face. The pelage of buff-cheeked gibbons is very fine. Finally, females are only slightly smaller than males.

Pelage coloration changes as animals mature. The timing of the color changes is variable and it may take several months to complete. When a buff-cheeked crested gibbon is born, its coat is bright yellow. Within a few months, the color changes to black within a few months; only the cheek patches remain yellow. During this time, the young resemble adult males in their fur coloration. Males retain this color pattern as they mature, but females revert to a yellowish pelage around the time of sexual maturity. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    7.0 to 11 kg
    15.42 to 24.23 lb
  • Average mass
    8.5 kg
    18.72 lb
  • Range length
    60 to 80 cm
    23.62 to 31.50 in


The mating system of all gibbons is monogamy. All gibbon species have nuclear families consisting of a mated pair and 0 to 4 dependent offspring. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005)

The breeding pair in the nuclear family can produce an infant every 2 to 3 years. The interbirth interval tends to be long because females nurse the young for up to two years. There has never been any record of twins being born in a buff-cheeked gibbon family. Buff-cheeked gibbons have a relatively long gestation of 7 months, and the offspring stay with the family unit for 6 to 8 years. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    These gibbons breed every 2 to 3 years.
  • Breeding season
    Gibbons breed throughout the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    7 months
  • Average weaning age
    24 months
  • Range time to independence
    6 to 8 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 8 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 to 8 years

Buff-cheeked gibbons have extensive parental investment by both parents. Females necessarily provide nutrition through nursing the young, but both parents may groom, carry, and protect the immature gibbons. The young stay with the parents for 6 to 8 years after birth. After this time, they move away to establish territories and families of their own. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • extended period of juvenile learning


Little research has been done on this species of gibbon in the wild, so its lifespan and survivorship in the wild are unknown. The only data on the lifespan of N. gabriellae is from captivity, where individuals of this species can live up to 50 years. (Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    50 (high) years


Buff-cheeked gibbons are only social with their nuclear family. They are arboreal and diurnal. The most common form of communication is through visual displays and complex calls.

Gibbons are territorial. Both males and females perform vocal duets as part of maintaining their territory.

Gibbons are known as the best brachiators in the world. They swing below the branches suspended by their arms. Brachiation is an energetically advantageous mode of locomotion. It allows for relatively high speeds in the canopy and for jumps of 10 meters or more. When moving on branches or on the ground, gibbons walk on two legs (bipedalism), often using their arms for balance.

Buff-cheeked gibbons sleep sitting up, and the family sleeps together in prefered sleeping trees. The tight-knit family unit participates in social grooming, which is thought to reinforce the bonds between family members. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range territory size
    200 to 500 m^2

Home Range

Gibbons are strongly territorial. Each family group occupies an area of about 20 to 50 hectares, but the typical territory size of this species has not been reliably determined in the wild. Territories are defended from intrusion by other gibbons by loud morning songs and by actively chasing intruders from the territory. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005)

Communication and Perception

Gibbons are famous for their calls. Gibbon groups produce loud, stereotyped songs in the early morning. Songs are thought to function primarily in defense of resources such as territories, food trees, and mates. However, songs may also help to attract potential mates. Gibbon songs include species-specific characteristics which are inherited rather than learned.

Mated pairs of buff-cheeked gibbons typically produce duet songs which consist of coordinated vocal interactions by both partners using sex-specific phrases. Other family members may participate in the song. Solo songs are typically produced by unmated buff-cheeked crested gibbons only.

Also, buff-cheeked gibbons have extended fields of skin glands situated in the axillary, sternal, and inguinal areas of the body. The glands produce a reddish secretion and are particularly active under hot temperatures and when the animals are excited. It is thought that the glands may play a role in olfactory communication. The glandular secretion also influences the amount of red visible in the yellowish female pelage coloration.

Tactile communication occurs when these animals groom one another, play, or mate. Visual communication signals, such as body postures and facial expressions, are also used by these primates. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005; Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • duets

Food Habits

This species is highly unstudied in the wild so all that is documented is from captive cases. Nomascus gabriellae is a selective eater and is mostly frugivorous. However, individuals have also been documented eating shoots, leaves, flowers, and occasionally insects. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • flowers


Adult gibbons typically live in the crown region of the forest where they have no natural predators except humans. In the lower stories of the forest, leopards, clouded leopards, and pythons may be potential predators. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005)

Ecosystem Roles

Since all known behaviors and relationships are primarily studied in captivity, there is no documentation of the ecosystem role of N. gabriellae. However, the appetite of buff-cheeked gibbons for fleshy fruits would suggest they have a significant role in the disperal of seeds. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some asian cultures use these animals for medicine, food, and pets, but not N. gabriellae exlusively. There is no particular eco-tourism draw with these animals. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no known threat or negative impacts to humans by N. gabriellae.

Conservation Status

The species is threatened by habitat loss (from development and logging) and by hunting. Also, extensive military activities have had a detrimental effect on the species mainly through habitat destruction. This species is not efficiently protected at present, not even in nature reserves and national parks. There are some local laws forbidding the hunt of these animals, but they are poorly enforced. Only international trade laws that forbid sale of these creature and their body parts in Europe and the US are enforced. ("Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species", 2004; Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

Other Comments

Traditionally, all crested gibbons were considered members of a single species (Hylobates concolor), and this species was considered the only representative of the subgenus Nomascus in the genus Hylobates. Buff-cheeked gibbons were considered a subspecies (H. concolor gabriellae) of that species. Recently, vocal characteristics and other features have suggested that buff-cheeked gibbons should be recognized as a distinct species and the genus Hylobates was split into several genera, including Nomascus. (Geissmann and The Gibbon Network, 2005)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Erin Quist (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor, instructor), Humboldt State University.



uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2004. "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species" (On-line). Accessed April 24, 2005 at

Geissmann, T., The Gibbon Network. 2005. "Fact Sheet: Yellow-Cheeked Crested Gibbon (Nomascus gabriellae)" (On-line). Accessed March 01, 2005 at

Gibbon Conservation Center, 2005. "About Gibbons" (On-line). Accessed March 05, 2005 at

Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005. "Gibbons" (On-line). Accessed March 02, 2005 at

Nowak, R. 1999. Gibbons. Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 1, 6 Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.