Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Matthew Altman

Second Committee Member

Lori Sheeran

Third Committee Member

Griff Tester


The Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus) is the world’s rarest ape. Their position on the brink of extinction raises many questions about conservation, existence, and agency. To explore these issues and draw attention to this Critically Endangered primate, I considered the Hainan gibbon from the perspective of field philosophy (i.e., philosophy carried out in the field with non-philosophers). I conducted semi-structured interviews with eight researchers/conservationists and analyzed their creative works. I collected additional information through a systematic literature review. I asked four research questions: (1) Based on their lived experiences, how do researchers and conservationists understand the Hainan gibbon? (2) how does this understanding affect Hainan gibbon conservation? (3) how do researchers and conservationists perceive extinction and loss in the context of the Hainan gibbon? And (4) what agency does the Hainan gibbon have in its own survival/conservation and death/extinction? The results reveal a story of hope (Hainan gibbons continued survival and agency) and loss (Hainan gibbons’ position on the brink of extinction), and that participants’ lived experiences shaped their perceptions of Hainan gibbon conservation and extinction. Overall, field philosophy offered critical reflection and new perspectives on Hainan gibbon conservation. This philosophical endeavor created a space to consider Hainan gibbons beyond biology and ecology, taking seriously their agency and loss, which will work to bridge empathy across species boundaries.

Available for download on Thursday, May 08, 2025