May 28, 2008

Borneo Porboscis Monkey


The greatest concentration of wildlife in Borneo, is found near Sandakan, along the lower regions of Sabah's biggest and longest river, the Kinabatangan. Orangutans, macaques, red and silver leaf monkeys, elephants, birds, eight species of hornbills, crocodiles, civet cats and otters are found in this region, but the most famous and most bizarre animal is the Proboscis monkey (a primate found only in Borneo). With its huge pendulous nose, a characteristic pot belly and strange honking sounds, it is one of the most peculiar and ugliest (or beautiful?) animals in the world. There is only one species of the proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus. The distinctive physical feature from which this monkey takes its name is the long pendulous nose of mature males. The Proboscis Monkey is found only in the coastal areas of Borneo and the Mentawai islands west of Sumatra living in coastal mangrove swamps and riverine forests on the lower reaches of major rivers coastal and mangrove forests

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Primates
SUBORDER : Anthropoidea

FAMILY : Cercopithectdae which includes 18 genera and 81 species. These monkeys are widely distributed in the Old World, from southern Europe (Gibraltar) to Africa and through central and SE Asia, including southern China and Japan.

SUBFAMILY: Colobinae
GENUS: Nasalis
SPECIES: larvatus (Proboscis monkey)

MALAYSIAN NAME: Monyet Belanda - "Dutchman Monkey". The proboscis monkey got its Malay name during the colonial period. The locals felt that the Proboscis resembled the European traders and colonialists (both were hairy, both had big noses, both had pot bellies!).

SIZE: males -56 to 72 cm
WEIGHT: 8.2 to 23. kg

GESTATION: 166 days. One young is born at a time, and breeding is not restricted to a season.

COLORATION: Reddish-brown or chestnut color on the back, orange on the shoulders with grey limbs and long white tails. A little dark red fur on the top of the head goes down the back

BEHAVIOUR: Proboscis monkeys move about and live in groups of 11-32. They live in single-male harems with about seven females. The small harems often come together to form multiple-male bands which are thought to be temporary foraging aggregations. Often bands of up to 60 can be found roosting together in trees near rivers at night. Males usually leave their natal groups and can be either solitary or form bachelor herds before getting their own harems. Females may move from one harem to another when young, but otherwise harems are stable. Males confront intruders.

DIET: Proboscis monkeys are vegetarian and predominantly eat leaves, although fruit, seeds, and flowers are included in their diet when available. The prefer the pedada leaves.

HABITAT: Proboscis monkeys live almost exclusively in mangrove forests near fresh water and in lowland rainforests. They can be found near rivers edges, resting and sleeping. Areas around human settlements are completely avoided. They are mostly arboreal (tree living) but have been known to leave the trees in order to cross open ground, or pass through nipah palms.

FEATURES: The male and female are distinguished by the size of the body and the nose. The male is bigger than the female and its nose is more pointed. Females do not have this characteristic. The nose of male, can be 4 inches long, hangs down like a small trunk to the end of the monkey's mouth. In the female and the young, the nose is shorter and turned up at the end. The males' big nose is a secondary sex characteristic: the bigger the nose is, the sexier the monkey is. It has also been suggested that the nose aids in radiating excess body heat. These monkeys are also proficient swimmers and expert at leaping from tree to tree, or from a riverside tree into the middle of a river. They often cross rivers and narrow points in big groups because they run a risk of being preyed upon by crocodiles, while in the water.

Though protected by law and listed as endangered by the USDI and Appendix 1 of CITES, this unusual monkey is threatened with extinction owing to loss of habitat and hunting. Their habitat is under severe threat from logging and land clearing for plantations. Deforestation is the main threat to the Proboscis Monkey. Hunting by locals, has also contributed to the decline in the monkey's population.
In 1977, about 6,400 proboscis monkeys were found living in Sarawak. Today there are only 1,000. There are 2,000 in Sabah and maybe 4,000 or so in Kalimantan. A number of conservation measures have been implemented to protect the proboscis monkey. The Sarawak Forestry Department was the first to do a detailed study of the species, and the government has gazetted national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to provide protection. The Forestry Department also has an education unit which educates the people, living in villages, on the importance of wildlife conservation.

Sabah is Malaysia's most important nature conservation area. The Sabah State Government is in the process of establishing the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. WWF Malaysia has been working with the Sabah Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development, Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department since 1983 on a number of projects in the Kinabatangan area. These projects include surveys of crocodiles, orang- utans, waterbirds and other wildlife.


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