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What you need to know about Borneo’s only two macaque species

Unlike other primate species such as the orangutan or proboscis monkey known worldwide due to their endangered status, Borneo’s macaque species are infamously known as pests.

Despite their status as pests, surprisingly, there are only two macaque species residing in Borneo.

Check out what makes these two species of macaques unique primates to share the island of Borneo with:
1.Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Long-tailed macaque.

This primate is native to Southeast Asia. Although they are named the crab-eating macaque, they don’t live entirely on crabs for their diet. They are opportunistic omnivores.

According to Junaidi Payne and Charles M. Francis in A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo, a group of long-tailed macaques can often be detected by their calls. The most common call is being ‘krra!’ which might explain why it is called “kera” in Malay.

Fruits and seeds make up to 90% of their food intake. However, they also prey on insects, frog’s eggs, and small birds.

They are commonly found at the beach, mangrove areas and along the river. With more humans encroaching on their habitat, these mammals have become more adaptable, taking advantage of our facilities.

Some long-tailed macaques take food from garbage cans and even have no qualms stealing food from people.

With their opposable thumbs, they know how to open food containers or simply grab your food.

They often travel in groups of 20 to 30 but only part of the group can be seen at one time. Individual macaques tend to be less noisy than langurs when travelling through the tree canopy but groups are more noisy.

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Sometimes you can even spot them running in a group at coastal beach such as at Bako National Park and Similajau National Park.

A group of long-tailed macaques seen scavenging from a dumpster at Sarawak Cultural Village.
2. Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina)
The Macaca nemestrina at Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo credit: Hectonichus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Do you know that this is the only primate which often descends to the ground to flee from man?

In Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, however, these pig-tailed macaques are trained to pick coconuts by their handlers.

They are distinctively known for their short tails, which look like pig tails. These primates are typically found in the jungle, and with increasing agriculture and human activities, plantations. Also known as Sundaland pig-tailed macaques, they feed on fruits, seeds, berries, fungi and small invertebrates.

Ecologically, scientists discovered that they play an important role as seed dispersers of rattan.

If you are not familiar with them, you might know them as ‘beruk’.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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