Sept 2009 — Pig-Tailed Macaque

by Angela Hijjas

We already have two species of primates at Rimbun Dahan, without counting humans — the common, gregarious and inquisitive long-tailed macaques, Macaca fascicularis, and the shy and retiring langurs who frequent the treetops in smaller family groups.

We have had occasional sightings recently of a pig-tailed macaque, Macaca nemestrina, or beruk in Malay, a very large monkey that has been traditionally used to pluck coconuts and throw them down to their handlers on the ground. You could once see them being taken from grove to grove on the owner’s bicycle, sitting on the handlebars, holding on and staring grimly ahead.

E. J. H. Corner, the famous botanist of the ’40s and ’50s, trained them to pluck samples from trees in the forests of Johor, but apparently they had to be trained only in Kelantanese dialect, as that was all they understood! Eventually one of Corner’s beruk attacked him, landing him in hospital for several months, but probably saved him from being killed by the occupying Japanese during the World War II. Beruk are known to be aggressive; Corner himself noted that one of his specimens would, if allowed, “savage small children.” Our dogs at Rimbun Dahan are taking care to remain deliberately aloof.