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Symphalangus syndactylus
December 2012
Compiled by
Symphalangus syndactylus – The Siamang
The Siamang is a long sleek primate with long arms and legs. It is the largest of the lesser apes.
The Siamang is endangered throughout its range. Many of its threats come from humans
through activities such as the Pet Trade and forest degradation through clear felling and palm
oil plantation development. The Siamang has a decreasing trend in population throughout its
natural range. It is known for its brachiating between trees and its mid-morning and afternoon
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Primate
Family – Shylobatidae
Genus - Symphalangus
Species - syndactylus
Sub Species - S.s.syndactylus the Sumatran Siamang
- S.s.continentis the Malayan Siamang
Synonyms - Hylobates syndactylus (Raffles, 1821)
- Symphalangus continentis Thomas, 1908
- Symphalangus gibbon (C. Miller, 1779)
- Symphalangus subfossilis (Hooijer, 1960)
- Symphalangus volzi (Pohl,1911)
Taxomonic Notes - The mainland and Sumatran forms have been considered distinct
subspecies. No subspecies are recognised by Groves (2005).
Common Names – Siamang, Greater Gibbon.
Closest Relatives – Gibbons. Siamang and Gibbon make up the lesser apes family.
Height (head and body length): 73.7 - 88.9cm. Reach over 1m tall when standing on their legs.
Weight - males average 11.9kg in the wild and 12.8kg in captivity.
- females average 10.7 in the wild and 10.5kg in captivity.
The Siamang is a long sleek primate reaching heights of 1 metre and weights of 14kg. They are
covered in black fur and have no tail. They have long arms which can span 1.5 – 1.8m wide.
Males have a prominent perpetual tuft of hair about 15 cm long.
The head is small and round. The face is essentially bare, with a flat broad nose with big
nostrils. The eyes are dark brown. The ears are hidden in the fur. There is a fairly large
laryngeal sac, which enhances the siamang’s call, helping make it the loudest of the gibbons.
The sac is hairless and puffs up when sounds are emitted.
Like in other gibbons, the siamang's arms are longer than their legs. Palms and fingers, except
for the short, opposable thumb, are elongated. Webbing of the second and third finger is a
constant feature and may extend to the terminal joint. Their feet have five toes. The big toe is
opposable too. Siamangs can grasp and carry things with both their hands and their feet.
Young are born about 410-600 g and are hairless except for a small tuft on top of the head.
There are no similarities between the Siamang and the native Australian species.
This species is protected throughout its range, both by local laws as well as internationally
through its listing on CITES Appendix I (O’Brien et al. 2004). It is known to occur in at least nine
protected areas: Bukit Barisan National Park, Gunung Leuser National Park, Way Kambas
National Park, West Langkat R (Indonesia); Fraser’s Hill R, Gunong Besout Forest Reserve, Krau
Wildlife Reserve, Ulu Gombak Wildlife Reserve (Malaysia); Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
(Thailand) (M. Richardson pers. comm.).
IUCN Red List – Endangered.
VPC - previously listed Category 2, currently listed as serious.
There is a large worldwide captive population, in 96 collections.
It is estimated that in the 1980’s there was approximately 360,000 siamangs within its natural
range. In the past 40 years it is believed that there has been a population decrease of around
50%. There is no direct management strategies in place at this time through their natural
Siamangs give birth after an average of 230 – 235 days (6.2 to 7.9mth range) gestation. The
young are born 410 – 600gms with some hair on their body which is sparse. Their mother looks
after and carries the young for approximately one year. Young are weaned between 18 – 24
months usually weighing between 2.5 – 3kg (
The Siamang males tend to offer more paternal care than other lesser primates with him taking
a major role in carrying the young after approximately 8mths of age. The infant typically
returns to its mother for nursing and sleeping (Lappan 2008).
Infants travel independently of their parents from around the age of 3yrs. Sub adults remain
with the parental group till around 6 -8 years of age. Females tend to leave earlier than the
male (Chivers 1976).
Siamangs typically live in monogamous mating pairs consisting of an adult male and female
with their young usually infants but sometimes sub adults. Polyandrous groups have been
found in Sumatra usually in disturbed habitats (Lappan 2008).
Young reach sexual maturity at approximately 8 – 9yrs of age and it is around this time that
they will find a mate. The oldest recorded Siamang in captivity is 44yrs while many live to
around 40. Wild ages are less known but are expected to be lower.
The Siamang lives in primary and secondary semi-deciduous and tropical evergreen forest. All
levels of the canopy are used, although emergent trees are preferred for resting and sleeping.
Siamangs occur at lower densities in secondary forest, but can persist in secondary areas. They
range from the lowlands up to 1,500 m in elevation.
The tropical hill forests are the primary habitat for the Siamang. In addition to the primary
lowland and hill forests they can also live in selectively logged primary freshwater swamp
forest, hill forests, and primary submontane forests. Siamangs are usually found at higher
levels of elevation than other lesser apes (Chivers 1977).
They are arboreal and very territorial having a home range of 0.2 - 0.48 sq km and a dispersal
distance of less than 3km (Chivers 1977).
They have a preference for fruit in their diet but will eat leafy vegetation if necessary.
They do not swim or engage in water activities, preferring to stay on the land up in the canopy.
The Siamang uses its long arms for swinging (brachiating) through the trees. This is their main
mode of locomotion.
They do not use hollow or fallen logs preferring to sleep in the higher canopy of trees. The
Siamang is not known for its nest building capabilities.
Symphalangus syndactylus is native to Indonesia (Sumatra), Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia) and
In Indonesia the Siamang is found in the Barisan Mountains of West Central Sumatra, in
Malaysia the mountains of the Malay Peninsula south of Perak River and a small area of
Thailand’s Southern Peninsular (Chivers 1974; Khan, 1970; O’Brien et al. 2003; Treesucon and
Tantithadapitak 1997). It may have previously occurred on the island of Bangka (Indonesia) and
reports of the species in Myanmar are almost certainly erroneous (
Map showing distribution of the Siamang
Symphalangus syndactylus
Green indicates range.
(map taken from
While the Siamang has been reintroduced into its natural range there is no evidence of
attempts to introduce it to an area outside that.
Map showing climate matches where 10 is very similar and 0 is no match.
Tasmania has 9 matches total with all scores under 2. The rest of the state shows no match at
On average, among several studies in both Malaysia and Indonesia, Siamangs eat a variety of
foods. This includes approximations of their diet distribution being 49% fruit (being between
32–61% of the diet), 38% leaves (17–58%), 3% flowers (1-9%) and 10% insects (1-12%) (Chivers
1974). Of the fruit Figs make up a significant proportion, up to 37% of a Siamangs diet (Bartlett
2007). Siamangs also have a preference for leaf types, eating mostly young leaves and only
small amounts of mature leaves. Over all more than 160 different species of plant are eaten.
Peaks in feeding occur over the course of the morning and decrease after that for the rest of
the day. (Chivers 1974, Chivers 1972a). They will spend approximately 34 -50% of their time
feeding throughout the day (Chivers 1976, Lappan 2005).
The Siamang utilises both its hands and feet to eat but is more likely to use its hands.
Siamangs typically live in monogamous mating pairs consisting of an adult male and female
with their young usually infants but sometimes sub adults. The sub adult tends to leave the
group between the ages of 6-8 years old. Females tend to leave the group earlier than males.
Polyandrous groups have been found in Sumatra usually in disturbed habitats (Lappan 2008).
Due to its high position within the canopy and its quick, agile movement through the forest,
predation is not of great concern to the Siamang. However, a fully grown Siamang was once
found in the stomach of a python (Mille 2002).
Siamangs being primates are susceptible to zoonotic diseases. These include Hep B virus and
play host to intestinal parasites such as Taenia solium (tapeworm), Plasmodium falciparum
Causes Malaria) and Enterobius vermicularis (pin worm) (Keeling and Mc Clure 1972). The
common cold and flu are also known to affect Siamangs.
Humans pose the largest threat to the Siamang through forest degradation and poaching.
Forests are clear felled to make way for palm old plantations and Siamangs are the most
popular of the apes for the illegal pet trade.
There are no reports of fatal attacks on humans by the Siamang. There are few reports of
hospitalisation after attacks by captive Siamangs on keepers and public during escapes. These
injuries are usually caused by the biting and grabbing from the Siamang. The attacks have not
been recorded frequently but these attacks often occur around the age of sexual maturity of
the Siamang (pers obs Shemwell 1996).
There is no record of the siamang being a pest throughout its natural range. This species has no
introduced range.
There is little chance of the Siamang establishing in Tasmania. A very low climatch score was
recorded between the Siamangs natural habitat and Tasmania with all matches rating 2 or
There is no record of Siamangs being an agricultural pest or having a negative impact on
human communities.
The species may be capable of damaging fruit crops such as apples.
Risk assessment for Australia resulted in the Siamang being given an establishment score of 5,
commodity damage score of 4 and risk to public safety score of 1.
VPC category – moderate.
SEWPaC lists siamang as eligible for non – commercial purpose only, excluding household pets.
The Siamangs will be transported in line with IATA standards during any movement outside the
grounds including this shipment from QLD.
The Siamangs will be housed in facilities which exceed both National Draft Standards and the
Siamangs should be dealt with as hazardous animals. Work practices and husbandry routines
will reflect that. Keepers must be in sight and/or sound of another member of the work force.
Animal escape procedures will fall in line with those used at Taronga/WPZ as will recapture
Tasmania Zoo has staff with 13 years of Captive husbandry of Primates and has worked
specifically with Siamang and Gibbon in situ in Thailand Kra Bok Koo field station training local
staff, Cambodia as an advisor to the Wildlife Protection Office training staff and developing
primate facilities.
Operational procedures will be drawn up once facilities are near completion. All staff will also
be trained in the keeping system and use of the building as well as escape and recapture
procedure and any other relevant procedures required to house the Siamang. This will be
completed prior to animals arriving in Tasmania.
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M.Sc. Thesis, University of California. › Symphalangus syndactylus (Siamang)