The proboscis monkey has been branded one of the ugliest animals on Earth. Ellen Daugherty tells us why we shouldn’t give this unusual creature such a tough time.
Undeservingly so, in 2013 this unusual creature was voted one of the worlds ugliest animals by the general public. The proboscis monkey is undoubtedly funny-looking, and is best known for its large protruding nose that makes it look unlike any other monkey on earth. But with so many other interesting features, should it be restricted to this label?
Not used for increased sense of smell, or any other sense, their noses are in fact used to attract females. It may not seem like an effective form of sexual attraction, but for such a prominent facial feature to evolve it must be successful (their noses can grow up to 10cm in length). Scientists haven’t actually proven this, but the sexual dimorphism between males and females in this area suggests that the nose is really used to woo the ladies. The bigger the nose, the stronger the sign of male fitness, and the more likely females are to mate with them. Consequently, the bigger the nose, the bigger harem a male will have control over. A harem usually consists of a single dominant male, two to seven females, and their offspring. Proboscis monkeys have very organized groups, so tend to stick to these social structures.
Another odd thing about this monkey is its swollen stomach, which makes it look permanently pregnant. This is due to their strange way of digesting food. They digest food in a similar way to cows, as their stomach is divided into two different parts, so they can regurgitate and re-digest food. This enables them to eat tough parts of the tree that many other monkeys cannot. They therefore have a pot-belly which also makes them very distinguishable.
Endemic to Borneo, these Old World Monkeys share their habitat with the Bornean orangutan, and are able to coexist peacefully in the same area. They live in the jungle, and are primarily found in the Danau Sentarum National Park, where they are safe from the dangers of poaching and deforestation. They settle near water, and are often found near rivers, swamps and mangroves. This is unusual for a primate, and as a consequence they have evolved to be specifically adapted to swimming.
They are the world’s most aquatic primate, and have even evolved webbed hands and feet to increase their ability to swim quickly. Their adaptation is so well-evolved that they can even out-swim crocodiles: their biggest predator. They are extremely fond of swimming, and can swim whilst fully submerged for up to 20m. Comically, they are seen jumping from trees and belly-flopping into the water, as in the video above.
Despite being one of the largest monkeys in Asia, their numbers are seriously plummeting. Nowadays there are only around 1000 proboscis monkeys left, as their unique habitat choices expose them to frequent deforestation. Humans are to blame for their endangered status, as poaching for furs and meat is still common.
Our generation of conservationists need to understand that conservation should not be focused on just the tigers and pandas of the world, but on all walks of life. Social media is too obsessed with the “cuteness”, or supposed “beauty” of certain animals, that they forget about all of the other brilliant creatures around the world. They may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but they’re still important. All species posses the same value to their surrounding habitats, and no matter what they look like, all of them should have the same chance to be saved.