With a fat belly and a nose like a blind carpenter’s thumb, meet the rather lovely proboscis monkey.
Locals refer to these splendid creatures as ‘Orang Belanda’ or the Dutch Monkey. Not that they are known for their mattress-dancing depravities or for a penchant for mind-bending substances. It’s the outsized conk and the fat pot-belly, that remind the Borneans of the early Dutch colonisers.
So what need for this stupendous sniffer? Well it seems the lady proboscis monkeys find it rather dashing; the bigger the better. On average the male’s conk is about seven inches long, the females considerably smaller, but still bally big. In fact if you were a male proboscis monkey your nose would be about the same size as your foot. Though what it would smell like is open to a number of punchlines. In fact they are so big it may be that the male needs to move his nose out of the way to take a chomp on some food. As if that wasn’t enough the noses swell and turn red when there is some sort of kerfuffle, a fact only aided by the way it acts as a resonating chamber to amplify shouting and generally causing a commotion.
The proboscis monkeys live in the swampy forests of tropical Borneo, and are really rather adept at living in the trees, wading around in water… they’re even proficient swimmers. It has even been reported that these monkeys have been picked up by fishing boats miles from the coast. They certainly seem to like splashing around in the water, and after a bit of a wade they will think nothing of having a bit of a wander around on its two back legs, one of the only non-human mammals to do so. Which brings us rather neatly to an insight into our own evolution.
This caused quite the brouhaha down at The Proceedings of the Ever so Strange, but there is the thought that we didn’t actually evolve on the African savannah… we are actually aquatic apes. This splendid theory could go at least part way in answering the question “why do we look so different from the other apes?” The others are hairy and favour walking around on four legs, while we prefer two… the only time when other animals will take a constant bipedal stance is in fact when they are wading. Another striking example of why we may be evolved from a swimming ape is that other aquatic mammals have more often than not lost all their hair; the dugongs, the hippos, the whales… etc. Like these aquatic mammals we have a fat layer to protect us from the cold, while other apes deposit fat around their organs. What’s more we are streamlined… imagine a gorilla trying to do the butterfly… he could barely get the trunks on I’d warrant. Finally we can control our breath, a prerequisite of speaking, the other apes can’t… but diving mammals certainly can.
It’s certainly a smashing idea… and the evidence is indeed compelling… as is the evidence that says it’s just a load of old cobblers… some may say that this is a crackpot theory… but I say pish and tosh to all you naysayers… come on in… the water is lovely… very nearly as lovely as the proboscis monkey.