While we call it’ ‘monyet belanda’ in Malaysia, in Indonesia it is called ‘bekantan’. The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is endemic to Borneo and can be found in all three countries on the island.
But it can also be found on the island of Tarakan, in the eastern part of Borneo in North Kalimantan province of Indonesia.
Here visitors can see them at the Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park, about 1km from the city center of Tarakan.
The Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park
The park is a conservation effort led by Tarakan city’s local government. In the beginning, the area only spanned three hectares, now it has increased to 22 hectares.
It was officially opened on June 5, 2003. Besides a conservation place for proboscis monkeys, it also served as the green lung for Tarakan city.
At first there were only two proboscis monkeys living in the park, now they have about 35 individuals.
Over the years, these proboscis monkeys have become used to human visitors, so it is easier to spot them and catch them on camera.
Plus, their reddish brown fur and unusually large noses make them easier to spot among the mangrove trees.
The best times to visit the Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park are between 11am to 2pm. This is because these are the extra feeding times for these bekantan.
Being seasonal eaters, these animals eat mostly fruit from January to May and leaves, especially mangrove leaves during June to December.
But the park rangers still feed them fruit with extra nutrients like bananas.
What to bring to the park
Visitors can walk around the park along its walkways that make it convenient to bring young families around.
Besides proboscis monkeys, visitors can also watch out for other animals such as crabs, birds, monitor lizards, squirrels, and mud fish. During high tide, you might even spot see snakes swimming through these mangrove roots.
Since the park is located near the city, visitors cannot escape from urban noise pollution, especially with noises coming in from a nearby school.
But with plenty of mangrove trees around, it is still a good place to see some greenery.
Although you can take photos of proboscis monkeys from a distance of 5m, it is still best to bring long-focus lenses to take their photographs.
Be respectful toward these animals and do not provoke them. Ever.
In Indonesia, proboscis monkeys are protected by Law Number 5 of 1990, Article 21, paragraph 2, which states that it is prohibited from capturing, injuring, killing, storing, possessing, maintaining, transporting and trading protected animals in living conditions. Anyone who intentionally violates the provisions of Article 21 paragraph 2 can be punished with a maximum imprisonment of 5 years and a maximum fine of Rp100 million (about RM28,000 or USD 7,000).
Besides Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park, proboscis monkeys can also be found in 16 protected areas in Indonesia.
These include Danau Sentarum National Park, Gunung Palung National Park, Kendawangan Nature Reserve, Kutai National Park, Lesan Protection Forest, Muara Kama Nature Reserve, Mandor Reserve and Tanjung Puting National Park.