By the time we made it to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, it had been a couple of months since our last opportunity to ogle the world’s wildlife (brown bears in Hokkaido, if you’re tracking that sort of thing…).
Clearly, it was time to donate more blood to the leeches in payment for a few sightings of Borneo’s diverse primates and other storied creatures (spoilers: hornbills! crocs! civets!).
Our foray into the remaining wild habitats of Sabah started with the lowland forests and floodplains along the Kinabatangan River.
The second longest river in Malaysia, this area is an ideal place to spot some of Borneo’s endemic inhabitants, such as the odd-looking proboscis monkey.
Easily identified by their protruding noses, these monkeys live in groups comprising one male and an assortment of females and juveniles.
Like other members of the colobine subfamily, proboscis monkeys subsist primarily on leaves supplemented by fruits and occasional insects.
Staying at a small eco-lodge on the riverbanks, we took early morning and late afternoon boat rides to search for wildlife.
After dark, we donned rubber boots and tramped around muddy forest trails to spot nocturnal animals like the Malay civet, a small carnivore that is widespread throughout Borneo and the surrounding islands.
Portions of the Kinabatangan River have been protected as wildlife sanctuaries, but these areas are currently fragmented and vulnerable to encroachment by palm oil plantations and proposed infrastructure projects in the Lower Kinabatangan.
Balancing the needs of the local economy with the importance of preserving valuable ecosystems is a complicated issue, touched upon delicately by our trekking guide, Mike, who led us on hikes in the Danum Valley in southeastern Sabah.
We found Mike gazing at the canopy one afternoon and musing about whether it would all still exist for future generations.
Labels: Borneo, Danum Valley, Kinabatangan, Proboscis Monkey