Labuk Bay

We drove from the ship to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.  Four-hundred acres of mangrove forest had been purchased for oil palm plantation development in the 1990s yet the land’s new owner soon found an interest in the resident proboscis monkeys.  He learned that their food resources, perhaps as a result of the fairly constricted patch of habitat they found themselves in, was limited and decide to supplement it.  The coach parked and we walked along a boardwalk to a site with
some feeding platforms.  Great cones of sediment rose from the ground – the burrows of mud lobsters – as mudskippers glistened in the dappled light as we walked through the attractive forest.  As soon as we arrived to the far end of the boardwalk we were greeted by a fantastic wildlife spectacle.  Dozens of Proboscis monkeys of varying ages and sexes were seen sitting in the trees or feeding on the pancake-like food just put-out by guides.   This was an exclusive feeding just for us.

Females with babies clinging tightly to their bellies ate as they gazed around them or leapt from incredible heights to lower branches – seemingly without a care.  Huge males ‘galloped’ across the wooden decking of the boardwalk, making a fantastic percussive sound as they did so.   Though we were startled by this action, the monkeys themselves seemed to take little notice of us.  

Some males fed at the platforms while others walked along the railings, often sitting still, and erect, and just looking very placid.  These males became a hit with the paparazzi as folks stood close by to pose with the remarkable monkeys.  Endemic to Borneo, and found almost exclusively in just the sort of mixed mangrove forest we were in, they are threatened by continued destruction of their habitat. 

Labuk Bay represents an interesting approach to aiding these charismatic animals and thus far it appears to be working.  We could have spent the entire day simply admiring these enchanting primates.

A short distance away and we came to another feeding station. This one had proboscis monkeys as well but there were also several silver leaf monkeys (also known as langurs or latungs).  These delicate looking monkeys were being fed a soft long legume and among them were mothers with their reddish-blonde babies.  Watching these monkeys was just as enchanting as the proboscis experience. None of the monkeys seemed to care in the least that they were the objects of great admiration and a lot of photo-taking.  In fact we often had to step out of the way as a baby monkey innocently explored the wooden deck we stood on.

Borneo: A Land of Dwarves and Deadly Giants

A female proboscis monkey, looking a bit like the child catcher from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', Borneo

Borneo is a bit like Alice in Wonderland: a topsy-turvy land where animals have been drinking magic potions that make them grow...

  Lucy Cooke
Freelance writer, producer, TV presenter

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