Friday, April 27, 2018

Sepilok - Day 2

Well, Mother Nature finally caught up to us after a day and a half of sun.  It rained most of the night and we had a huge thunder storm at 4AM which woke us up.

The day before we had decided to go to the Rainforest Discovery Center early.  So, despite the continued off and on rain, we were out at 6AM and headed to the RDC.  We got rained out for every trip to the RDC last year and it appeared our luck would be no better this year.  By 7:30AM the rain showed no signs of stopping so we left the RDC all wet...again.

Back at Forest Edge, we hung out in the covered dining room area for the rest of the morning watching a few birds brave the rain:

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker:
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Luckily, the rain subsided around lunch time and wasn't an issue the rest of the day.

For the afternoon, we had arranged for Gary to take us to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey sanctuary.  At first, none of us really wanted to go because morally this sanctuary is a bit of a gray area.  The sanctuary is owned and operated by a palm oil company.  It only exists because this company found the monkeys while tearing down all of the surrounding habitat.  Luckily, someone at the company took pity on these monkeys and preserved some jungle/mangroves for them.

But, did we really want to give money to a palm oil company to see these monkeys that we assumed were really only semi-wild since they lived on a forest "island" in the middle of a palm oil plantation?

After talking it over and reading more about the sanctuary online, we decided to go since Proboscis monkeys were likely but not guaranteed at the river later in the trip.  Gary ended up dispelling our fears a bit by letting us know that the monkeys were not land-locked and could actually leave the sanctuary because all the mangroves for miles were connected and protected. So, the monkeys were wild (although fed daily in the sanctuary to supplement their wild diets) after all and we also had the chance to see Mudskippers at the mangroves.

That last part sealed my "yes" vote since the Mudskipper was on my target list for this trip.  The others were on board too and we ended up having a great time at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is home to other wild primates including these Silver Leaf Monkeys:
Silver Langurs

Silver Langur

It wasn't long before we spotted a Mudskipper and they were fantastic.  This is a Blue-spotted Mudskipper:
Blue-spotted Mudskipper

The Mudskipper is a fish that lives on land. It uses its pectoral fins to walk around and it can breathe on land as well (although not like we do).  It's quite an evolutionary marvel and pretty cool looking too.  Its eyes stick out above its head and can move independently of each other:

Head On View

Once my infatuation with the Mudskippers subsided, we headed to the main platform and soon the staff was putting out some food for the Proboscis Monkeys.  They get a combination of vegetables and non-sweet pancakes.  Because these monkeys are "baited" they are used to people and the photo opportunities are outstanding.  So, be prepared for Proboscis Monkey overload:

Proboscis Monkey with Baby

Juvenile Proboscis Monkey

Mother and Baby

The Cuddle

One of the things that makes the Proboscis Monkey so endearing is how human like they seem.  This is a standard sitting position.  All you need is a La-Z-Boy chair and remote and it could be any one of us...

There were two separate troops of Proboscis Monkeys on separate feeding platforms when we were there. Our large viewing deck was in between them.  The dominate male of one of the troops was paying great attention to the male from the other troop and was staring intently at him.  As luck would have it, we were just about right in between the males so it appeared like the first male was staring at us.  He was eating and barking out calls at the other male.  As a matter of fact, he had no problem "talking" with his mouth full and showing us everything he was chewing.

Trust me, that wasn't ALL he was showing us either.  See, male Proboscis monkeys like to show off their junk.  There I said it.  They have a bright red penis and ink black balls and they aren't ashamed of them AT ALL.  In fact, this male took a couple swipes at his erect penis to intimidate the other male.  I wonder if that would work in meetings at work that aren't going my way...probably not.

All of a sudden he leaped down from the platform and on to our viewing deck.  He charged past us on all fours slapping the ground to make a great commotion as he went past.  I couldn't believe how fast and powerful he was as he scampered past us to chase off the other male.  He then came back to our viewing deck to take a quick look around on top of a sign and returned to his troop.  He moved way too fast to get a photo until he stopped on that sign to take his final look around.

Warning Sign

At first, the sign seemed difficult to interpret.  Luckily with the help of the pictures I think I understand it now:
1 - Don't let the monkeys hand you their poop (seems an obvious one)
2 - Monkeys don't like "talking to the hand" (neither does my wife)
3 - Pacman isn't allowed to talk to the monkeys (Rumor has it that Ms Pacman does all the talking in that family though)
4 - No ice skating (Sorry Scott Hamilton)
5 - Tank tops aren't allowed (good thing I didn't wear my leopard tank top belly shirt...phew)
6 &7 - It is OK to trade your two kids and buggy for one monkey (It's a deal!)

When the dominant male returned to his troop he got a little grooming reward:
Grooming Session

But, that session was interrupted when he spotted the other male again and started to display his displeasure sans junk:

Dominant Male Proboscis Postering

He was literally sending a message to the other male that "Oh No", he wasn't coming any closer.  Tim captured this behavior well in this animated GIF he put together:

As you can see, there were a couple mothers with babies in the troop and they were great fun to watch.  Here's one final Proboscis pic (Spoiler alert: the rated R Proboscis pics are coming later):

Holding On

We had a blast watching all this interaction and hearing all the communication sounds between the monkeys.  It's much harder to see and hear all that in the wild along the river.  One thing we were surprised about is that when a couple Long-tailed Macaques came to get some food, all the Proboscis monkeys left. Even the big males were easily chased off.  The Macaques are kings of this jungle.

Also at the reserve we saw some new raptors, a Dog-faced Water Snake, and some unidentified rats. So, despite a few sprinkles it was a great afternoon and seeing all the wonderful Proboscis behavior was a highlight of the trip for us.

After leaving Labuk Bay, we headed for the RDC where we actually had no rain!  A first at the RDC for us.  So, we were finally able to explore and look for wildlife.  We found lots of it.

Eastern Crimson Sunbird:
Eastern Crimson Sunbird

Interesting vine:

Our first looks at Rhinoceros Hornbill this trip:
Rhinoceros Hornbill

Low's Squirrel:
Low's Squirrel

As we were climbing up one of the towers, Andrea found a snake that was really well camouflaged.  It was another Red-tailed Racer (not sure why they call them that when every one we saw had a gray tail).
Red-tailed Racer (with Gray tail)

Red-tailed Racer

At dusk, Gary positioned us on one of the canopy walkways to see the flying squirrels leave their nest and hopefully glide to a nearby tree.  We didn't have to wait long before one emerged and glided effortlessly to another tree.  It's so cool to watch.  Too bad it was pretty dark out.

Just after dark we made our way out of the RDC but not before we saw this large Asian Toad:
Asian Toad

Dinner consisted of Pizza (Yes, Forest Edge does a pretty darn good pizza) and happy hour ice cold beer.  Even though the morning got rained out the rest of the day was really good today.  This was Gary's last day with us.  He will be missed.  He told us that our guide for the day tomorrow would be Gomi (not his real name) and that he did not know him.  Well, he can't be too bad...right?

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