Uncomfortably numb with proboscis monkeys

It feels wrong. Although great to see these animals close up, Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sactuary doesn’t sit comfortably for me.

The attraction was set up by a palm oil plantation owner who entices the monkeys to a feeding platform four times a day so that visitors, like me, can get great pictures.

On the way here we drive down a bumpy dirt track between miles of uniform blocks of palm trees passing a sad-looking water buffalo, tied up with its calf. A pair of blue-eared kingfishers flash by.

imageA group of proboscis monkeys are sat on the feeding platform as we arrive, waiting for their afternoon meal.



imageTame silver leaf monkeys play on the decking of the visitor centre. These small grey-haired primates, with their distinctive tiny faces and Mohican-style tufts of hair, give birth to orange-haired babies. We watch various females share babysitting duties of a two-week old baby.

Proboscis monkeys have huge noses, pot bellies and the males walk around with constant erections. It is thought the larger nose makes them more attractive to prospective mates. I am not sure about the erections.

The wardens scatter breadfruit and cucumber on the platform and initially chase away dominant males to ensure the females get food. Then all monkeys come down and grab their afternoon meal.

Proboscis monkeys live in the nearby mangrove forest, so unlike the orangutans, they have not been directly displaced by the plantations. They have no enclosure, so can come and go as they like, but feeding has changed their behaviour.

At 60 MYR (£13) this is twice the cost of the sun bear centre and unlike the orangutan and sun bear centres, it is dedicated to making money rather than conservation and rehabilitation.

Clearing Borneo’s rainforest for palm plantations has been the major contributor to the loss of habitats for orangutans. This, together with poaching, is responsible for the declining populations of these endangered animals.

Don’t get me wrong. The animals are not badly treated here. It is not a zoo with a tiny enclosure. It just doesn’t seem ecologically sensitive. And I think what jars for me most is the fact that it is run for profit by the palm oil plantation owner.


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