Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon Fact File

Nomascus leucogenys


5.6-5.8 kg






Wild - 28 years

Captive - 28 years



Plants, Insects

conservation status


Critically Endangered

Life in the Trees!

The northern white-cheeked gibbon is built for a life in the trees with their long arms helping them to swing long distances through the canopy. It is rare for the species to be seen on the ground.

Unfortunately this species is critically endangered and at risk of disappearing from across much of their range with the last substantial population remaining in Laos. The population in Vietnam is in sharp decline and they are thought to be extinct in China.


What does a Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon look like?

Northern white cheeked gibbons show a high level of sexual dimorphism. The female is a reddy-tan colour with a black stripe along the centre of the head. The cheeks are white, a trait which they share with the males of the species. Males have a black coat. On the head they have a prominent crest of fur.

As a species of ape they do not have a tail.

White cheeked gibbons have incredibly long arms which are 1.2 to 1.4 times the length of their legs. This is long even when compared to other gibbons.

Males and females are similar in size measuring from 45.7 to 63.5cm (1.5-2.1ft). The male has an average weight of 5.6kg (12.35lb) while females are mildly larger at an average 5.8kg (12.8lb).


How does the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon survive in its habitat?

The long arms of the northern white-cheeked gibbon allow them to swing through the trees, covering a large distance with each movement. These can also be held above their head to provide balance as they walk along branches.


What does a Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon eat?

White cheeked gibbons are classed as omnivores. For much of the year this species is reliant on leaves as they are the primary available food source. During periods when fruit is in abundance this will become the main food source. They also feed on shoots, flowers and insects.


Where do you the find the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon?

White cheeked gibbons are at home in Asia. They can be found in Laos and Vietnam.

While they were previously found in a small region in China they are now believed to be extinct in this portion of their range.


Where can a Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon survive?

These animals live in areas with a subtropical climate. They are found in primary and mature secondary forests. Most of their time is spent in the canopy of tropical rainforests.

The group will work together to defend a territory. This is achieved through a series of calls produced by group members. On occasion males from separate families may engage in physical confrontations.

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Northern White Cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys)


How does a Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon produce its young?

Groups of white cheeked gibbons consist of a monogamous pair who will mate and their offspring. An important part of their mating is the calls which they make. The more times a pair call to each other the more likely they are to mate. The female has a 22 day ovarian cycle.

A single young is born after 200 to 212 days. The baby has an average weight of 480g (18 oz). It will survive on the mother’s milk once it is born until weaning at two years old. From birth they are carried on the chest of the mother. The buff coloured fur of both male and females infants will help to camouflage them against the fur of the mother.

At one year of age both sexes turn to black in colour and develop a pale cheek patch. At four to five years of age females once again become buff while the males remain black. During this change the juveniles spend a large amount of time playing and will sing the call which females make regardless of gender.

At seven to eight years of age the Northern white cheeked gibbon becomes sexually mature. They have a baby every two to three years.

A captive individual reached a record 51 years old but 28 years is considered an average lifespan for the species.


What does the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon do during its day?

White cheeked gibbons are a social species. Their group may consist of six individuals with a mated pair and their juvenile offspring. They maintain a territory which is not particularly large.

Bonds within the group are reinforced through grooming of other members. They will also play with one another.

Most of their activity occurs during the day. At night time they cuddle together in a tall branch.

Males and females each have a distinct call which they use for duets. The female makes a set of notes followed by the male who replies. They then repeat the cycle and will do this for up to seventeen minutes. While much remains unknown about this species the southern species has been shown to sing at dawn and on sunny days only. Males can also make a booming noise and short single notes through the use of their gular sac. This display is part of defending their territory by showing off their position to other groups.

Gibbons live a highly arboreal lifestyle. It is rare for this species to be found on the ground in the wild.

To move through the tree they use a specialised method of movement known as brachiation. This movement sees them using a hand over hand movement and creating a loose hook around the branches as they move through the trees. They show a preference for either the right or left hand when swinging through the trees.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon from surviving and thriving?

It is believed that the only predator of this species is raptors such as eagles and owls though this comes from studies of related species.

Humans are the primary threat to this species. Most of this is through habitat clearance. Individuals are also captured for the pet trade or for their body parts to be used in traditional medicines. In parts of their range they are protected from this persecution by local customs which view them as close to humans or spirits.

Quick facts

Northern white cheeked gibbons are able to recognise themselves in a mirror.

This species may also be known as the crested gibbon or the northern concolor gibbon.


Bleisch, B., Geissmann,T., Manh Ha, N., Rawson, B. & Timmins, R.J. 2008. Nomascus leucogenys. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T39895A10272040. Downloaded on 19 May 2020.

Perth Zoo Staff (2023) White-cheeked gibbon, Perth Zoo. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2023).

Rockhampton Zoo Staff (2022) Northern white-cheeked gibbons, Rockhampton Zoo. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2023).

Ruppell, Julia Cleverly, "Ecology of White-Cheeked Crested Gibbons in Laos" (2013). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1007.

Harding, L.E. (2012) ‘Nomascus leucogenys (primates: Hylobatidae)’, Mammalian Species, 44, pp. 1–15. doi:10.1644/890.1.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo Staff (2020) White-cheeked gibbon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2023).

Encyclopædia Britannica Staff (2023) Gibbon, Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2023).

Botting, J. (2020) Northern white-cheeked gibbon, Nomascus leucogenys, New England Primate Conservancy. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2023).

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