We conducted an interview survey around and within Mengla and Shangyong Nature Reserves, Mengla County, Yunnan, China, in December 2008 to ascertain whether gibbons were present in the area, and in December 2011 we surveyed two sites in the Reserves for the northern white-cheeked gibbon Nomascus leucogenys. We found no signs of the existence of gibbons during the survey. Illegal hunting was common at both sites. Only 36 individuals in nine groups were recorded in Mengla and Shangyong Nature Reserves in the 1980s, and this small and fragmented population was probably unable to survive the pressure of hunting. No white-cheeked gibbon was recorded in Huanglianshan Nature Reserve in a survey carried out by other researchers in 2003. Gibbons have a very low chance of survival in unprotected forest, and we conclude that the white-cheeked gibbon is extinct, or at least ecologically extinct, in China.