So, back to the land of blogging. Just spent an amazing two weeks in Borneo, and I was lucky to spend some of the time photographing the local wildlife, a big thank you to my lovely wife Maria 🙂
The first post here is of a remarkable monkey, the proboscis monkey.
Distinguished by its prominent nose, the endangered proboscis monkey lives only on the island of Borneo, where deforestation threatens its continued existence in the wild.
The proboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey, known as the bekantan in Malay, is a arboreal Old World monkey that is endemic to Borneo, never straying far from rivers, coastal mangroves, and swamps. The proboscis monkey also goes by the Malay name monyet belanda meaning “Dutch monkey”, or even orang belanda meaning “Dutchman”, as Indonesians remarked that the Dutch colonisers often had similarly large bellies and noses. True, maybe? I will leave this up to you to decide for yourselves.
Quite a big fellow, the proboscis monkey comes in at around 15 to 23 kg (males), although one chunky specimen of 30 kg has been known. On average the female in 50% smaller. This is surprising, considering they survive mainly on a diet of un-ripened fruit, leaves and seeds, and occasionally the odd insect or two.
So, what’s with the nose?
Now, you all being an educated crowd, you will know a proboscis is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal. This appendage can measure up to 10cm long for the male, again the appendage/proboscis of the female is smaller than the males’ but still large for a primate. Now, would you believe it, male proboscis monkeys use their fleshy, pendulous noses to attract mates, I know what you are thinking, but it’s not true. Actually, scientists think these oversized “organs” create an echo chamber that amplifies the monkey’s call, impressing females and intimidating rival males.
Whilst in Borneo we were lucky enough to see two big groups, one group composing an adult male, some adult females and their offspring and a second larger group consisting of the “boys”, approximately twenty males. I believe this structure is quite common for the species.
Unlike other monkeys (especially the long-tailed macaques we saw) proboscis monkeys are not aggressive, other than the usual squabbling between the male-group males and the alpha male of the family group.
Unfortunately, Borneo’s most threatened landscapes are home to these highly specialized primates. Over the last 40 years, proboscis monkey populations have plummeted. They are currently protected from hunting or capture in Borneo and are listed as an endangered species. Its total population has decreased by more than 50% in the last 40 years. The continued clearing of the region’s rainforests for timber, human settlement and, especially oil palm plantations in Sabah has depleted huge tracts of their habitat. The fragmentation of the monkeys’ range means they are being forced to descend from the trees more frequently and often must travel longer distances to find food. This bringing them into contact with their predators, which include crocodiles, clouded leopards, eagles, monitor lizards and pythons, and some native people who consider proboscis monkey a delicacy.
Interesting, didn’t see any monkey on the menu’s in the food courts, but we did see few slabs of cheval?