27 January 2016

Helen Pople is a science research master’s student, at The University of Portsmouth and another student whose research we helped through our Studentship programme.

Little research has been carried out on proboscis monkey behaviour – here Helen tells us more about the work she has been doing around this species and how they are affected by humans in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Proboscis monkey in tree

Proboscis monkey. Photo credit Tim Garvey

Understanding behaviour

“A typical day involved waking up at 4.30am to set off in the boat and find the groups at 5.00am before it got light. By locating the groups the previous evening we were able to arrive very slowly in the dark and wait for the group to wake up without disturbing them. I would then film the individuals in the group one by one from the opposite bank for around two hours to get a general understanding of behaviour. In the afternoon we would head out again to find a new troop of proboscis monkeys and complete a boat approach experiment before dark. This involved changing the speeds and proximity of the boat and filming the proboscis monkeys at the same time.

“Whilst we are still in the process of analysing the results, just from observations it seems that proboscis monkeys are indeed negatively affected when boats get too close or are too fast. Once the results are analysed, a report will be written up and sent to the wildlife department of Borneo. We hope to use these results to suggest stronger rules for improving tourism and to protect our wildlife while we all continue to enjoy the environment.”

Helen Pople looking through binoculars in the field

Photo credit: Tim Garvey