Story | 13 Jul, 2023

Cloud Mountain Conversation

Helping the Lisu ethnic community protect China’s Hoolock gibbons

Cloud Mountain


Our goal is to achieve a net increase in the Hoolock gibbon’s population size

Cloud Mountain Conservation was established in 2015 by a group of enthusiastic professional conservationists, scientists and photographers. It is committed to protecting the endangered flagship species and biodiversity of Southwest China through scientific research, public outreach and systematic surveys.


There are fewer than 150 Hoolock gibbons (Hoolock tianxing) left in the wild in China. 
Half of this small population is distributed around communities outside nature reserves in Sudian Lisu Ethnic Township and Zhina Township in Yingjiang County. These low-elevation habitats are significant for gibbon conservation. Therefore, it is imperative to promote the participation of the Lisu ethnic community in gibbon conservation.

Our programme integrates gender perspectives and cultural sensitivity into conservation action.
In Lisu ethnic communities, women’s participation in public affairs is lower than men’s. Their contribution to their families and communities are wildly underestimated. We try to understand women’s life experiences, remind women of their importance in gibbon conservation, and encourage them to join in the decision-making process.

A three-year action agreement for the restoration of gibbon habitats has been formulated.

During several years of cooperation, young women have become our core partners. They are more willing to participate in public affairs decision-making and take over much of the work, planting local pioneer tree species. We are building a community conserved area in Yingjiang, and our goal is to achieve a net increase in the Hoolock gibbon’s population size in the focal area by 2033. Our current programmes include habitat connectivity enhancement, innovative monitoring technique exploration, multimedia publicity for fundraising, and partner-bonding and science communication.

We support local communities to regenerate degraded lands by nursing and transplanting seedlings of local pioneer tree species.

We are assessing sites for artificial canopy bridges to connect forest gaps, created mainly by cultivation of the spice tsaoko. Last year, we launched an arboreal camera-trapping programme to collect more data on the diet, seasonal home ranges and population dynamics of unhabituated gibbons, as well as to conduct a baseline survey of other arboreal animals. Local Lisu people’s ecological knowledge (i.e. on phenology and arboreal animal tracing), and their tree-climbing skills, have contributed largely to this programme. Data collected will fill knowledge gaps and instruct conservation priorities in this region.

In terms of publicity, we amplify the voices of local Lisu communities – especially the women.

We record traditional culture and customs in the hope that they could value their self and cultural identities, and feel motivated to preserve their forest ‘backyard’ and gibbon neighbours. We also actively seek cross-disciplinary collaboration opportunities to get more audiences to care about Hoolock gibbons, and to participate in current and future conservation work.