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Published: April 21st 2012
Proboscis Monkey's of Bako
A young female proboscis monkey leaping from tree to tree.
Bako National Park is widely lauded as a haven for wildlife, where even the most amateur of naturalist can come up close and personal with the unique flora and fauna. Situated north of Kuching in the Malaysia occupied region of the island of Borneo, the tropical rainforest of Bako is nestled away, reachable only by boat. The shy and oft elusive Proboscis Monkey is one of Bako’s most illustrious residents and we had been advised that the best chance of an encounter was by taking the undulating Paku Trail.
We set off laden with water, camera, binoculars and a large slice of hope along the trail which meanders around the cliff face. The rainforest that enveloped us was both wild and unforgiving. Towering trees were laced together with vines to create a matted assault course for plantain squirrel, flying lemur and lizards. Tree roots became our natural stair case whilst moments later became our stumbling block. In the early afternoon heat and with oppressive humidity the trek was anything but easy but the frequent views that opened up over the cliff forest and out onto the South China Sea kept lifting out spirits. Our hopes of making a Proboscal spot
Proboscis Monkey's of Bako
A harem of proboscis monkeys led by the dominant female.
kept on being raised as fellow trekkers would advise us of their presence around the next knotted bend. After some time of slipping on vaselined boulders and having almost drowned in our own sweat we emerged at a serene and secluded beach. It was a picture perfect paradise and we could easily have rested up for some time, but we had come to see the Proboscis Monkey and as yet we were hopelessly failing. So, back on the trail and we re-traced our tired steps.
We had all but given up hope when we were finally rewarded. Sitting atop a distant mangrove tree we could just make out a male Proboscis Monkey, dining on young leaves and keeping half an eye out for danger. Energised by our sighting we glided down to the lunar-like landscape of the mangrove forest. The sun was now low in the sky, rapidly heading for its watery sanctuary. The trees now sported long oily shadows and the sky was painted an autumnal array of colours. The dominant male sat no further than ten metres away, perched in the apex of the tree. He brushed his pendulous nose aside to fit in his evening meal of fresh shoots and young leaves, his bloated belly resting on his large hind feet. He was soon joined by his harem of females, the dominant female leading them across the open forest floor. She calmly and gracefully strolled ahead whilst the younger sub-adults bounded kangaroo-like behind her. One young female crashed into the tree beside us then propelled herself almost in slow motion with all four limbs outstretched like a flailing baby before dramatically piling into the next tree. On she went until her luck ran out and she lost her grip ending up a heap on the floor.
It’s unique to Proboscis Monkey that separate harems join together in the evenings without conflict, benefiting from their greater numbers and increased chance of further social interactions. Accordingly a second harem closely followed heading for their nocturnal retreat in the jungle that clung onto the cliff face. The dominant male and female held an air of authority as they strolled along blissfully unaware of our presence; their thick white tails pointing horizontally behind, their large webbed feet carrying them on.
The two families joined forces as they sat at the base of the cliff seemingly sharing tales and gossip of their day in the jungle and its inhabitants before they all headed for the tree tops. The males could be heard using their bulbous nose to roar out their dominance. Soon these gentle mannered primates had nestled down for another night, safely veiled from the onlookers below.
At first look they appear quite peculiar looking creatures but their bold colours and pendulous noses become increasingly endearing. Any time spent with these unique animals is time truly well spent. Their lovable clumsiness as they crash through trees and their bouncing amble across the mangrove floor can keep a nature lover enthralled for hours. It was a scene of incredible peacefulness and a rare close up encounter with a species that is sadly falling victim to deforestation.
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