Probably one of the ugliest and most bizarre-looking primates this side of the equator, the proboscis monkey is a rather interesting creature found only on the island of Borneo, with Sabah hosting the highest population.
With a penchant for devouring poisonous leaves and swinging reckelessly from tree to tree, this clumsy-looking arboreal monkey sporting a signature bulbous nose, rotund pot-belly and peculiar brown coat that gives an impression of a portly Freanchman, definitely warrants attention.
Like many other primates in the animal kingdom, the social structure here favours male dominance with a male proboscis leading a harem of up to 20 females along with his off-spring. Once his male progeny come of age in their fifth year, they quickly become competition. Not permitting them an opportunity to challenge and usurp his authority, he chases them away. These exiled primates usually travel in bachelor groups till they are able to establish their own harem, hijack another's or simply steal a wife or two.
Though it may seem that this chauvinistic system bequeaths power to the male, after learning how a leader may fall from grace perhaps, power isn't all it's cut out to be. easy come, easy go! it just takes a few flirtatious flares of a brazen female nostril, straight and enticing to let another male know of her availability as well as desire to male, and a challenge is issued.
Now, the alpha male must defend his harem or risk losing everything; children, wives and status. He will trash about, embellishing his power by straightening his own pendulous nose and crashing through trees to demonstrate his strength. Choosing dry branches that crack easily, his might is established. Now, it's up to his opponent to either back down or show his mettle. In a dance as old as time, mating rituals and exhibitions of prowess are played out in the buzzing mangrove.
Should his adversary prove to be the more impressive branch-cracker and nose-flarer of the two, the alpha male's reign is over. His harem will not abide his impotence and ego-bruised he will retreat into the jungle, isolated from his family to re-join bachelorhood.
It really is a jungle out there. Territory and property are not to be taken for granted. The perks of bigamy pale in comparison to the continual struggle to defend one's own. And even the legendary 24-hour erection (often dubbed the red chili for obvious reasons) that permits a male proboscis to mate several times a day with an interval of just a few minutes seems a plague.
But life for the proboscis is a lot tougher than this, its internal power struggles are minor when faced with the threat of extinctions. Driven from their mangrove habitat by illegal clearing, logging of bakau wood and overdevelopment of agriculture, they wrestle with their greatest nemesis yet: man. Inhabiting coastal swamps, peat swamps and riverine forests, the proborcis has no where to go. Boarded by the sea on one side and land on the other, their home is rapidly diminishing. Violated and pushed to the brink, they will disappear.
Though not officially elevated to the respected status of 'endangered' species conferred upon their fellow almost-extinct friends such as the Sumatran Rhino, they're plight is no less significant. With a population of a mere 2000 in Sabah, this number is alarming.
Getting there
Labuk Bay is situated 38km from the Sandakan International Airport. Due to uneven gravel roads, the journey into this sanctuary located within a mangrove forest takes approximately an hour. For more information, contact Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary at (+6)089-672133/177

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