Gibbon (Lar)

Hylobates lar

IUCN Red List status: Endangered

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Where they live

China, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Malay Peninsula and Sumatra


found in lowland forests, usually in family groups


head-body length 42-58cm


males 5.7kg, females 5.3kg


25-40 years


The major threat to this species is hunting; they are hunted both for subsistence food use and for the pet trade. Ongoing localised forest loss due to shifting agriculture and commercial plantations of palm oil also poses a threat.

Did you know...

  • They are sometimes called white-handed gibbons because of their colouration
  • They make distinctive musical ‘whoop’ sounds; their loud resonant songs can be heard up to half a mile away!
  • Gibbons are the gymnasts of the animal kingdom bridging gaps of more than 10 metres when brachiating

More about Lar gibbons...

Lar gibbons are apes, which mean that, unlike monkeys, they don’t have a tail. They have a hairy body, except for buttocks, where they have ischial callosities or sitting pads. This distinguishes these so-called Lesser Apes from the Great Apes which lack them.

A gibbon’s coat can be almost any colour from black and dark brown to light sandy colours. The face is surrounded by a ring of white fur and, as the name suggests, the hands and feet are white. Both sexes can be any of the colour variations.

Their long arms and long hooked fingers which characterise the gibbons are used for movement through the tree tops by a hand-over-hand pattern known as brachiation.

They have short legs that can be tucked out of the way for fast manoeuvring through the foliage. On strong branches they walk along in an upright posture. When they walk on the ground the very long arms are extended out to the side to help the animals balance.

They are diurnal (day active) arboreal animals. Each group of gibbons lives in a territory the size of between 12 and 53 football pitches! They defend their territory from neighbours by loud calling or hooting displays which are normally performed most mornings.

Fruit makes up 50% of their diet, but they also feed on leaves, insects, flowers, stems and buds. In the wild gibbons supplement their diet with meat by catching birds out of the air as they swing through branches.

Lar gibbons form pair bonds for life which means that they live together in small family groups. Females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of around seven months. Young gibbons stay within the family unit until they leave to start their own family groups.

How you can help...

Adopt a Gibbon (Lar)!

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