Proboscis Monkey on Visit50

Proboscis Monkey in Borneo: never seen monkeys like these!

The Proboscis Monkey is one of the most unusual looking primates in the world. They have huge noses, semi-webbed feet, and are only found in Borneo.

Proboscis Monkey facts

This might have been the first time I saw an endangered species in the wild.  I was fascinated and wanted to learn more about them. This blog will include everything you want to know about proboscis monkeys.

Monkey with the long nose

The proboscis monkey name, Nasalis larvatus, literally translates to “long nose monkey” and you can see why (below):

Rare Proboscis Monkey - relaxing on a low branch | Bako National Park in Borneo, Malaysia
Rare Proboscis Monkey – relaxing on a low branch, in Borneo, Malaysia

The male proboscis monkey’s nose can reach up to 7 inches in length!

Why do proboscis monkeys have such long noses?

Their noses are actually to attract females in their harem.  The long nose changes the sound of their voice. This sound impresses females, and can intimidate other males.

Proboscis monkeys typically live in a harem consisting of one dominant male and about 5 or 6 females and their children.

Female proboscis monkeys have much smaller noses - Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia
Female proboscis monkeys have much smaller noses – Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia

What does a Proboscis Monkey look like?

Besides the nose, their bodies are surprising too. Check out the pot belly on this proboscis monkey. Every one I observed had this.

look at the pot belly on him

  • Size: Male Proboscis Monkeys can be twice the weight of females. Males can be up to 50 pounds. Females are up to 25 pounds.
  • Protecting – proboscis monkeys only live in Borneo. It’s the only place they can survive.

Where can you find a Proboscis Monkey?

These primates are only found in Borneo in Southeast Asia. They’re in the Sarawak region of Malaysia in Borneo. If you find yourself western Borneo, head to Bako National Park. It’s an island with a concentration of 300 proboscis monkeys.

Food – what do Proboscis Monkey eat?

Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps

This proboscis monkey was frantically eating as if he hadn’t eaten for days! Take a look in this video clip from my time in Malaysian Borneo:

Look at that long nosed monkey-nose

Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps
Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps

Good swimmers!

Proboscis monkeys are proficient swimmers, using the webbing between their fingers to move quietly. They do this to avoid attracting predators, like crocodiles. They swim using a form of a doggy paddle. I observed them in mangrove swamps, which is common.

Habitat for the Proboscis Monkey:

  • Proboscis Monkeys live almost exclusively in mangrove forests. They can also be found in lowland rainforests.
  • Proboscis monkeys are dependent on habitats with rivers and streams.
  • Proboscis monkeys sleep in trees. They prefer thick branches growing over water to protect themselves from predators.

    Proboscis Monkey eating leaves, in Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia
    Proboscis Monkey eating leaves

What do Proboscis Monkeys sound like?

They sound exactly like pigs to me.

I saw bearded pigs upon entering I saw them at Bako island. When we heard a typical pig sound later in the day, we mistakenly thought it was coming from a pig. These honking sounds actually come from proboscis monkeys. Surprise!

Video clip closeups from my first encounter with Proboscis Monkeys in the wild from my time in Malaysian Borneo:


Conservation status of the Proboscis Monkey: Endangered

The Proboscis monkey is Endangered.

From National Geographic:

The monkeys of the world are divided into two groups: the Old World monkeys of Africa and Asia and the New World monkeys of Central and South America. Geography isn’t their only difference however. Many Old World monkeys, like the proboscis, have long thick tails that help them balance while capering, crashing, and careening around the forest. In fact, the names of several monkeys in this family describe their distinctive appendages: stumptailed, pigtailed, and lion-tailed monkeys. In contrast, many New World monkeys, like the familiar spider monkey, have prehensile tails, used like hands and feet to help them grasp limbs, swing through the treetops, and even dangle upside down while eating.

I generally like National Geographic’s wildlife pages, but based on my experiences in Bako National Park, I disagree with Nat Geo in one key area on proboscis monkeys.

Proboscis Monkey Scientific name

Common Name: Monyet Belanda
Genus: Nasalis

Here’s my video clip of Proboscis Monkeys strolling through mangroves:

Mannerisms like Humans

Proboscis Monkeys seem so human-like!  Imagine a monkey with a distinctive huge nose and a pot belly. They often walk upright (rare for mammals) and sit like humans sit.

The proboscis monkeys’ mannerisms of made me stop in my tracks and want to observe them all day. So I did. I noticed this even more than when I saw Orangutans, which are much more closely related to humans.

Lifespan of Proboscis Monkeys

Proboscis monkeys can live up to 20 years in the wild.

Female Proboscis Monkey nose is smaller

You’ll notice that the female proboscis monkey has a much smaller nose.

female proboscis monkey high in the tree

Proboscis monkeys are not graceful

National Geographic says “they’re graceful, they can swim, and they’re in trouble.” But I disagree. I agree that they’re surprising good swimmers. And yes, deforestation is certainly endangering their species. But graceful??

After a few days of observing them in the wild, I respectfully disagree (at least with the few dozen that I saw at Bako National Park in Borneo / Malaysia).

Here’s an example

This proboscis monkey (below) started to swing from one branch to another, not realizing it couldn’t support his weight. She promptly dropped to the ground. Then she bounced, and tried it again with the next branch.

You’d think that years of evolution might help them in this area. Bako island is only have 10.5 square miles, so I’d assume they’d get to know the terrain fairly well.

Even worse, the larger proboscis monkey behind her followed his lead. Then he selected the same branch, dropped to the ground bounced. Watching these mishaps in the wild are almost comical.

this primate is swinging on a branch

They’re known as the bekantan in Indonesia.

More resources

There’s more info on the rare Proboscis Monkey on Wikipedia and this site as well. Also, you can read more on National Geographic’s proboscis monkey site.

Note, I’m still working to update the watermarks to Visit50.

2 thoughts on “Proboscis Monkey in Borneo: never seen monkeys like these!”

  1. this was the one! I can´t believe that monkeys this ugly can exist! So cool though, and I´m sure way more exciting to see them in their natural habitats than at the Bronx Zoo!

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