Animals A-Go-Go

Proboscis Monkeys in Borneo

Apr 24, 2001
Outside Magazine

Why haul your family all the way to the swampy mangrove forests of coastal Borneo to see the proboscis monkey? Because this Western Pacific island southwest of the Philippines is the only place on the planet you'll find this endearing two-and-a-half-foot-tall oddball primate with its bowling-league potbelly, its lunatic territorial honks, its gravity-dissing leaps from branch to distant branch, and its wondrous, pendulous nose. Male proboscis monkeys have the best schnozzes in the monkey business—droopy, three-inch-plus snouts whose exact purpose is not known. Researchers think the nose may act as a sound amplifier for the monkey's ritualistic swamp-shaking cries. One thing they have noted in the field: Size does matter. Female proboscis monkeys prefer the males with the largest noses. The monkeys travel in groups of 15 to 20 and live, quite noisily, in trees along Borneo's riverbanks. Though generally shy, they seem to have gotten used to human presence in certain regions, including Tanjung Puting National Park, on the south coast of the Central Kalimantan province of Indonesian Borneo, and Kinabatangan Wetlands Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, on the island's north coast. Guided monkey-viewing trips are run in riverboats and dugout canoes morning and evening, when the chances are best to view the hyperactive monkeys playing by the water's edge, swinging from limb to limb, and sometimes leaping out of 60-foot-tall trees into the water below and using their powerful legs to swim across the river. Though Borneo's "dry season" is March through August, this is the rainforest; you can expect heat, humidity, showers, and, yes, mosquitoes in summer.

WHAT ELSE YOU'LL SEE: Orangutans, gibbons, long-tailed macaques, hornbills, green turtles, hawksbill turtles.

Filed To: Nature, Indonesia