Monday, February 27, 2017

Feb 27th – Monkey Business in Sandakan

The island of Borneo is famous around the world for its orang-utans, but for me, its most fascinating creature is the extraordinary-looking Proboscis Monkey. This crazy looking creature has a big pot belly, a bulbous drooping nose (looking like the town drunk), and the males boast a permanent (disconcertingly bright-red) erection. They look like they've had a bad haircut, they appear to have a confused look on their faces, like they're not sure how they got there, and they seem to be permanently grumpy.

In fact, it's impossible not to assign human characteristics to these funky monkeys – you can watch them for hours. On previous occasions, the males have always been insatiably randy, appearing to want to use their permanent state of readiness at every single possibility. But, today they seemed quite subdued in the love-making department – there were quite a lot of us looking on expectantly, so maybe they were camera shy.

Nevertheless, it was just fascinating to watch them interact, squabble, and bound about - these proboscis monkeys may not have been promiscuous monkeys, but they were incredibly entertaining,

Before this, we went to the Sepilok Orang-utan Reserve to see man's closest cousin in the wild – or, semi-wild, as these endangered orang-utans are being rehabilitated for possible reintroduction to the wild (or what's left of it in Borneo). We first got to see some youngsters "working out" in their "gym" – swinging around in a kind of play park, as they picked up the skills and dexterity that they'd require in the wild.

Then we went to the feeding platform, where 3 orang-utans (including a mother with a tiny baby) swung down to feed. If this was fewer orang-utans than I've seen in the past, our guide tried to paint it as a positive – in that the other orang-utans are feeding themselves, rather than relying on handouts. The most entertaining aspect was the attempts of the stealthy macaques to steal the orang-utans' food off the platform, while its intended recipients would lazily swat them away like annoying flies.

Borneo's unique natural habitats are increasingly under threat, so it was fabulous to get some opportunities to view some of their wonderful wildlife monkeying around so close up.