White-cheeked gibbon

Nomascus leucogenys

White-cheeked gibbons live in rainforest canopy habitat in Laos, southern China and Vietnam. They are largely frugivorous (fruit-eating) but also eat leaves and small invertebrates.

Gibbon lingo

  • Brachiation: to move by swinging with the arms from one hold to another. Gibbons move through the trees canopy by brachiation.

Gibbon behavior and facts

  • Gibbons have long arms and short thumbs, both ideal for brachiation.
  • Their intelligence has been tested and ranks between monkeys and great apes.
  • Gibbons are diurnal (active during the day) and arboreal (living in trees).
  • Newborns are blond and juveniles are black. Females are blonde at sexual maturity and males are black with white cheeks.
  • They live in family groups, usually consisting of an adult breeding pair, a juvenile offspring and an infant.
  • A breeding pair develops a unique "duet" where each one contributes a note to their song. The song is sung in the early morning to strengthen the pair's bond and establish their territory; keeping other gibbons away. Gibbons use a different song when they encounter predators.

From birth to death

  • Gibbons are monogamous: they have just one mate throughout their life.
  • Females give birth to one infant.
  • The young are nursed for 2 years. The male assists with care of the young, and so do older juveniles.
  • Females give birth every 2 to 3 years.
  • The young leave the group at 8 years old when they reach sexual maturity.
  • Lifespan: 25 to 30 years

Vital statistics

  • Height: 18 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 12 to 20 pounds


  • US Endangered
  • CITES App I - due to habitat destruction
  • SSP
  • studbook participant
  • TAG

Gibbons, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's white-cheeked gibbons live in the Red Ape Reserve exhibit. The daily diet: monkey chow, fruits and vegetables.

They are critically endangered due to hunting and loss of habitat. Their forest homes have been cleared for farming and firewood.