Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary - Birth of a sanctuary
SANDAKAN: A prolonged dry spell in 1997 and the resultant lack of food impelled proboscis monkeys to venture out from their natural habitat.
In their desperation to search for food, some of the monkeys encroached into the workers’ quarters of an oil palm plantation belonging to Lee Weng Hing, now famous for the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary he created on the site, at mile 19 from the town.
“The proboscis monkeys come here by chance… it was during a dry season in this area and they had no food to eat,” said the general manager of the sanctuary, Sean Lee Vui Vun, the son of Lee Weng Hing.
“The plantation belonged to my father and together with my uncle Michael Lee, they actually wanted to clear the forest for the cultivation of oil palms,” Sean recalled.
“Actually, at that time, some 900 acres of the land had been planted with oil palm and when we wanted to reclaim the mangrove area which is about 470 acres, we discovered that it was the natural habitat of the proboscis monkeys,” he said.
Because of this, he said his father decided not to disturb the area and turned it into a reserve area to protect proboscis monkeys, now estimated at about 300.
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