Bako National Park – A land of strange creatures

With its jungle streams, waterfalls, vegetation types, secluded beaches, bizarre rock formations and strange creatures, Bako National Park offers visitors an excellent introduction to the rainforest and coastline of Borneo.

Bako National Park is probably the best place in Sarawak for wildlife experiences. Rare species such as silvered langurs, common water monitors, plantain squirrels and mouse deer can all be found here. However the animal that most arouses the attention is the Proboscis or long-nosed monkey, a reddish-brown arboreal monkey endemic to the island of Borneo.

Entrance at Bako National Park, Borneo

Entrance at Bako National Park, Borneo

The Proboscis Is the biggest monkey in the world and can reach a length of about 70 cm and a weight up to 24 kg. This species lives in the lowland of Bako National Park and is perhaps the most aquatic of the primates and a fairly good swimmer.

The proboscis gets its name from its prominent and fleshy nose. Male noses keep growing and growing, so the longer they live the bigger their noses become. The long and big nose is a major sexual attraction for females. Female noses are not as large and juveniles have small upturned noses. The male’s are so large that they hang down over their mouths. Sometimes they have to push it out of the way before putting something in their mouth.

Proboscis monkey at Bako National Park, Sarawak, MALAYSIA

Proboscis monkey at Bako National Park, Sarawak, MALAYSIA

I had the opportunity to interact with these curious primates on my last trip in Malaysia. The first time I saw them it was at the main entrance of Bako National Park, in an area full of mangroves. There was a organized harem group of about ten monkeys eating leaves desperately and being controlled by the dominant male.

They are like fantastic beings taken from a fairy tale or a science fiction novel. When I heard them for the first time, it seemed as if they were talking among themselves in a strange language such as elvish. They make loud honking sounds as a warning when they sense danger or attract female’s proboscis. The nose acts as a resonator when the monkey vocalizes.

Manglar forest at Bako National Park

Manglar forest at Bako National Park

Unfortunately, Borneo’s most threatened landscapes are home to these primates. The rampant clearing of the region’s rain forests for timber, settlement, and oil palm plantations has depleted huge tracts of their habitat. Nowadays is estimated that only 1.000 proboscis monkeys remain in the province of Sarawak. About 2,000 remain in Sabah and 4,000 in Kalimantan. They are currently protected from hunting or capture and are listed as an endangered species.

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