A primate named after a Star Wars character is under threat of extinction in China and a Wandsworth researcher wants to protect it.

The Skywalker hoolock gibbon is an ape living in the forests of Gaoligongshan, in southwest China, and scientists concluded it to be a new species of primate in January this year.

Its unique name is partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name, hoolock tianxing, mean 'Heaven's movement', but also because its researchers, led by Fan Peng-Fei, are Star Wars fans.

Hoolock gibbons can be found in Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India and Myanmar (Burma), and are known to move around in trees while spending little time on the ground.

While it is estimated that there are around 200 living in the area, the exact figures are unknown and it is currently listed as 'endangered' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Now primatologist and former Roehampton University student Carolyn Thompson, of Denton Street in Wandsworth Town, wants to visit Myanmar and establish an action plan to protect it.

She said: "I’ve been studying primates now for just over ten years, I’ve got so much experience.

"I’ve always wanted to work with primates ever since I was seven, and I always wanted to study species that were on the brink of extinction, that is literally all I ever wanted to do and I’ve been quite focused.

“So for me personally, although it’s my job this research is every zoologist’s dream come true really. Because everyone at the moment wants to be studying newly discovered species.

“One of the most exciting things about my research is to work with the local people."

Ms Thompson has travelled and researched in the Americas, southern Africa and parts of Asia while studying life sciences at The Open University, and is now undertaking a PhD at University College London.

The part-time teaching assistant, 31, wants to initially carry out a pilot study to collect initial data and produce an action plan, with hopes to launch in early 2018, before presenting findings at the International Primate Society conference next August.

Her three-person team includes Professors Helen Chatterjee and Fan-Peng-Fei, as well as Dr Samuel Turvey, who was among the scientists that published the key paper in the American Journal of Primatology.

So far, more than £7,000 of the £10,500 has been fundraised by more than 100 people in less than a month.

For more information, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/skywalkergibbonresearch