Protecting The Proboscis

The proboscis monkey has received increasing attention in recent years. Indeed, it has become a flagship species for tourism activities throughout its range, particularly in popular areas like Sukau in Kinabatangan, Sabah in East Malaysia. Tourists are almost always guaranteed to be rewarded with the sight of these enigmatic animals, as they can be easily found along rivers on a slow boat cruise in the mornings and evenings. This is due to their preference for habitats along rivers and coastlines; and their social group structure, which consists of basic one-male, multi-female or all-male groups congregating along waterways.

Preserving The Proboscis

While on-going field studies have and will continue to reveal more information about the basic biology of this charismatic species, improved knowledge has also placed the long-term survival of the species increasingly under the spotlight. Borneo, having lost 30% of its rainforests in the last 40 years has had a particularly critical impact for the proboscis monkeys, which are adapted to swampy forest along waterways and have highly specialised diets, consisting leaves, unripe fruits and seeds found within these forests. The monkeys have quadripartite stomachs characterised by enlarged, sacculated fore stomachs for bacteria and enzymatic digestion of these hard-to-digest plants.

In recent years, mangroves and peat swamp forests in Malaysia and Indonesia have seen the highest rates of loss. Lowland forest habitats are also increasingly converted for land development, particularly for palm oil plantations. Unlike more generalist species of primates like macaques, proboscis monkeys are least likely to find alternative food resources in human-modified habitat and converted plantation forests.

Read more in Asian Geographic Issue 1/2016.


Article by John Sha Chih Mum and Ikki Matsuda



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