Many protected areas conduct awareness-raising activities to increase local knowledge and support conservation programmes, but the effectiveness of such activities is rarely assessed. Public awareness-raising has been carried out since the early 2000s around Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Hainan, China, to improve conservation knowledge about the Critically Endangered Hainan gibbon Nomascus hainanus, one of the rarest mammals. We conducted 207 interviews in 25 villages around Bawangling National Nature Reserve to evaluate the outcome of previous conservation education, through comparison of variation in local respondent knowledge and attitudes, and specific enquiries about sources of knowledge acquisition. Likelihood of accurate responses to most of our questions regarding the species was positively correlated with local exposure to gibbon-themed billboards and murals, and respondents exhibited greater knowledge about several key conservation indices for gibbons compared to their knowledge about sympatrically occurring rhesus macaques Macaca mulatta. Many respondents specifically reported they knew about local existence, population size, conservation status, and threats to gibbons from past awareness-raising activities, with village education sessions and billboards widely identified as key sources of information. However, other known awareness-raising approaches have had little detectable effect on shaping local conservation awareness. Although educational activities have improved awareness about gibbons and their conservation requirements in relative terms, overall levels of knowledge remain low in many important areas and ongoing improvement of local awareness is still needed, in particular around poorly-understood topics such as gibbon conservation status, rarity and threats, and for socio-demographic groups possessing less conservation knowledge.