The white-handed, or lar gibbon, or indeed the white-cheeked gibbon, is a primate found in the forests of South and Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and possibly China. It is one of the best-known gibbon species in the world.
Height – They can reach a height of 1.5 to 2 feet.
Weight – Lar gibbons weigh around 10 to 20 pounds.
Pelage – Most of their body is covered in thick, soft hair. Only the face, feet and parts of the hand are hairless.
Color – Colors can vary from light brown to dark brown or black; the face has a white-colored edge to it. The topside of the hands has some white fur on it, thus giving it its name.
In the wild, they can survive for 25-30 years.
White Handed Gibbon
White-Handed Gibbon Pictures
Distribution Range and Subspecies
There are five subspecies of the white-handed gibbon, one of which is believed to be extinct:
Hylobates lar lar or the Malaysian lar gibbon is found in Malaysia and South Thailand.
lar carpenter or the Carpenter’s lar gibbon can be found in Eastern Myanmar, Northwestern Thailand and Laos.
lar entelloides or the Central lar gibbon is found in South Myanmar and South Thailand.
lar vestitus or the Sumatran lar gibbon is found in Indonesia.
l. yunnanensis or the Yunnan lar gibbon, this subspecies is believed to be extinct; they inhabited the Yunnan province of China.
Almost exclusively arboreal, the white-handed gibbon lives in dipterocarp forests, lowland and submontane rain forests, deciduous bamboo forests, peat swamp forests and seasonal evergreen forests of Southeast Asia. They generally prefer heights of around 1200 meters above sea level.
An arboreal and diurnal animal, the lar gibbon hardly ever comes down to the forest floor. It uses its long and supple arms to swing from tree branch to tree branch. It is generally active for about nine to ten hours a day, during which, they spend their time feeding, resting, traveling, socializing and vocalizing. When they do descend to the ground, they walk on two legs while keeping their arms aloft their heads in order to keep balance.
Mating and Reproduction
White-handed gibbons are monogamous; they live in small family groups of a male, a female and a juvenile, if any. They copulate year round, but the conception of the young generally occurs in the month of March. Gestation period is around 6-7 months, after which a single offspring is born.
Baby White-Handed Gibbon
White-Handed Gibbon Baby
Peak birthing season is towards the end of the rainy season. Weaning is done when the baby is about twenty months old. Females reach sexual maturity between 6-9 years of age, while the males become reproductively active at 9 years of age. They only conceive once in every 3.5 years.
Sounds and Vocalization
White-handed gibbons use songs as their main mode of communication. These ‘songs’ are sung in duets by the mating pair and used to mark territories. Each morning they gather at the edge of their territory and partake in a great call; each subspecies have specific variations of the theme of these calls, and these variations are used to distinguish one from another.
Fruits constitute about half of the white-handed gibbon’s diet. Other foods that they like to eat are leaves, tree barks, plant shoots, and flowers. In fact, their dietary habits can, at best, be described as omnivorous, as they have been known to feast on bird eggs and insects like wasps and mantis, and even occasional birds.
White-Handed Gibbon Images
Like other gibbons, the lar gibbons too, are brachiators, meaning they swing from one branch to another using only their hands, as a result, their fingers are curved, so as to facilitate gripping, thus ensuring quicker and more graceful locomotion.
In continuation to the abovementioned point, it should be noted that the hands of the gibbon are elongated; arms long and its legs are rather short.
Gibbons lack a tail; instead, they have a strong, bony padding on their buttocks, which is known as ischial callosities, or simply as sitting pads.
The white-handed gibbon is usually not preyed upon by other animals, however, eagles, leopards, marbled cats, and pythons are all potentially capable of killing this primate.
Baby Lar Gibbon
IUCN Conservation Status
White-handed gibbon is listed as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN 3.1 and it is on a ‘decreasing trend’. Their exact number in the wild is unknown in countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Largest population numbers are found in Thailand in places like the Kaeng Krachan National Park, Khao Yai National Park, Phukhieo Wildlife Sanctuary and Nam Nao National Park.
Hunting for their meat is one of the primary reasons for their dwindling numbers. It is also common for one or both parents to be killed so that the baby can be captured. Like many other wild endangered species, loss of habitat is another deadly threat – as mankind grows, animals suffer!
A group of white-handed gibbons is collectively known as a ‘family’.
They are the most bipedal of all primates, other than humans. This physical characteristic has been studied for years to determine what evolutionary compulsion led humankind to become bipedal.