World Conservation and Wildlife Trust

Fighting to protect the World's Marine Life, Wildlife, Biodiversity and Population.

The Proboscis Monkey

Having travelled to the blissful country of "Borneo" as we brits call it, local name of Sabah, I experienced first hand the neglect of possibly the fascinating ape I have ever  laid eyes upon. The Proboscis Monkey. You talk about kids who get bullied being neglected, just locked in a dark room to forget about, I see the Proboscis as just this, except in my eyes a hidden Gem. For many years locals have called upon the Great Ape as a side liner to its great neighbour, the orang utan, in the tourism line. Make no mistake the proboscis is not some ugly big nosed baboon, no its not related to a baboon, it is a beautifal un recognised treasure in the lush and diminishing forests of Borneo (Sabah). The story's the same, the destruction of the rainforest causes their habitat to diminish which is like being thrown out onto the street and locked out with a bunch of chain saw murderers (not that I am a hippy or anything thats just a metaphor). So the rainforest is being destroyed and with it the population of the Proboscis. As the orangutan is so cute and cuddly everyone jumps at the chance to donte (in a way) but you dont see pictures of the Probiscis on a postcard asking for money to save it, humans do not work that way, but hopefully after reading this you will see the beauty and greatness of the Proboscis and everythiong that makes it just perfect... even if the proboscis rescue centre makes a tenth of what the orangutan centre along the road in sabah makes through tourism.

By Robin Johnson, CEO WCWT

General Information on the Proboscis Monkey

The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) or long-nosed monkey, known as the bekantan in Malay, is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey that is endemic to the south-east Asian island of Borneo. It belongs in the monotypic genus Nasalis, although the pig-tailed langur has traditionally also been included in this genus - a treatment still preferred by some.[3]

The proboscis monkey is sexuality dimorphic. Males have a head-body length averaging 75.5 cm (29.7 in) and weigh on average 20kg. Females average 62 cm in length and weigh half as much as the males.[4] Further adding to the dimorphism is the large nose or proboscis of the male, which can exceed 10cm in length, dwarfing that of the female, and hangs lower than the mouth. Nevertheless, the nose of the female is still fairly large for a primate. The proboscis monkey has a nearly long coat. Dorsally, the fur is is bright orange, reddish brown, yellowish brown, or brick-red. The fur is light-gray, yellowish, or grayish to light-orange ventrally. The face is orange-pink. The male as a red penis with a black scrotum. Both sexes have oversized stomachs that protrude and give the monkeys what resembles a pot belly. Many of the monkey’s toes are webbed.

The monkey also goes by the Malay name monyet belanda ("Dutch monkey"), or even orang belanda ("Dutchman"), as Indonesians remarked that the Dutch colonisers often had a similarly large belly and nose.

The proboscis monkey is found only on the island of Borneo and can be found all three nations that divide the island: Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It is largely restricted to coastal areas and along rivers. The monkey lives only in lowland habitats such as coastal and riparian habitat many of which are flooded by tides. It prefers dipterocarp forests, mangrove forests, and riverine forests. It can also be found in swamp forests, stunted swamp forests, rubber forests, rubber plantations, limestone hill forests, nipa swamps, nibong swamps, and tall swamp forests, tropical heath forests and steep cliffs. This species is rarely found more than a kilometer from water sources. It is perhaps the most aquatic of the primates and is a fairly good swimmer, capable of swimming up to swimming up to 20m (65.6 ft) when completely submerged. It is known to swim across rivers. Aside from this, the proboscis monkey is largely arboreal and moves quadrupedally and by leaping. It is known to leap from high branches and into water. As a seasonal folivore and frugivore, the proboscis monkey eats primarily fruit and leaves. It also eats flowers seeds and insects to a lesser extent. At least 55 different plant species have been recorded used as food sources, with a marked preference for Eugenia sp., Ganua motleyana and Lophopetalum javanicum. Young leaves are preferred over mature leaves and unripe fruits are preferred over ripe fruit. Being a seasonal eater, the proboscis monkey eats mostly fruit from January to May and mostly leaves from June to December. Groups usually sleep in one or several trees that are nearby. In habitats near rivers, monkey sleep near the river. Proboscis monkeys will start the day feeding and then move further inland. Proboscis monkeys seed most of the daily resting, traveling, feeding and keeping vigilant. Before dark, the monkeys move back near the river and feed again. Predators of the proboscis monkey include crocodilesclouded leopardseaglesmonitor lizards and pythons. Monkeys will cross rivers at narrows or cross arboreally if possible. This may serve as predator avoidance. Proboscis monkeys generally live in groups consisting of one adult male, some adult females and their offspring. Other groups also exist such as all-male groups as well as less documented kinds. There are some individuals that are solitary, most of which are males. Monkey groups leave in home ranges that overlap and there is little territorial behavior. Proboscis monkey live in a fission-fusion society, with groups coming together at sleeping sites at the end of the day. There exist bands which are form with the fission and fusion of groups.Groups all meet during the day and travel together, but individuals do not groom or play with those from other groups. One-male groups range from 9-19 individuals while bands can consist of as many as 60 individuals. One-male groups usually have 3-12 individuals but can be larger. Serious aggression is uncommon among monkeys but minor aggression does commonly occur. Overall, members of the same bands are fairly tolerant of each other. A linear dominance hierarchy exists among both males and females. Male of one-male groups can stay in their groups for 6-8 years. Replacements in the resident males appear to occur without serious aggression. Upon reaching adulthood, males leave their natal groups and join all-male groups. Females also sometimes leave their natal groups, perhaps to avoid [[Infanticide (zoology)|infanticide or inbreeding, reduce competition for food or increase their dominance status. Females become sexuality mature at 5 years old. They show sexual swelling which involves the genitals becoming pink or reddened. At one site, mating peak in mid-year and births peak between March and May. Copulations tend to last for half minute. The male will grasp the female by the ankles or torso and mount her from the rear. Both sexes will solicit mating but they are not always successful. When soliciting, both sexes will make a pouted face. In addition, males will sometimes vocalize and females will present her backside to a male. Copulating pairs are sometimes harassed by sub-adults. Proboscis monkey may also engage in non-reproductive mounting, such as playful and same-sex mounting. Gestation usually last 166-200days or slightly more.Births tend to take place at night or in the early morning. The mother then eats the placenta and licks her infant clean. The young eat their first solid foods at 6 weeks and are wean at 7 months. The nose of a young male grows slowly until reaching adulthood. The mother will allow other members of her group to hold her infant. When a resident male in a one-male groups is replaced, the infants are at risk of infanticide.
Juvenile Proboscis monkey in Bako National Park, Malaysia

Reasons for Endangerment

The Proboscis monkey is assessed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and listed in Appendix I of CITES. Its total population has decreased by more than 50% in the 36–40 years to 2008 due to ongoing habitat loss and hunting in some areas. The population is fragmented: the largest remaining populations are found in Kalimantan; there are far fewer in SarawakBruneiand Sabah. The Proboscis monkey is protected by law in all regions of Borneo. In Malaysia, it is protected by a number of laws including the Wildlife Protection Act (federal law), the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 (Chapter 26) and Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 (Sabah state law).

The Proboscis monkey is known to occur in 16 protected areas: Danau Sentarum National ParkGunung Palung National Park, Kendawangan Nature Reserve, Kutai National Park, Lesan Protection Forest, Muara Kaman Nature Reserve, Mandor Reserve and Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesia; Bako National Park, Gunung Pueh Forest Reserve, Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, Klias National Park, Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sungei Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary and Ulu Segama Reserve in Malaysia.