The Dusky Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus), also known by other names, such as lotong, lutong, dusky leaf monkeys and spectacled langur, are distributed from Southern Burma to Peninsular Malaysia, and also found on the island of Penang. Found mostly in forested areas, the dusky langur is arboreal (i.e. lives in trees) and folivorous (i.e. specialize in eating leaves); although they also feed on certain fruits, flowers and young shoots. The dusky langur plays a crucial role in forest regeneration as an essential seed disperser. In many countries, primates like the dusky langur are considered part of its natural heritage, with immense biological interest and importance in ecological cycle.
An alpha male dusky langur (left) and an infant langur (right).
Due to deforestation that is the result of Penang’s rapid development, habitat loss has driven the dusky langur out of their quickly disappearing natural habitats into urban areas. As food sources become scarce, the monkeys are forced to travel between fragmented forests, exposing themselves to road accidents and encounters with other animals—especially humans. Humans often attempt to feed the monkeys, a habit Langur Project Penang (LPP) is working to discourage: not only does this alter the behaviour of the monkeys (i.e. inducing dependency on food handouts, disease transmission due to overcrowding behaviour and increased aggressiveness due to human-primate conflict), it also causes serious internal damage, since human food is not suitable for primates to digest safely.
Langurs roadkills have increased due to forest fragmentation.
Apart from deforestation and habitat fragmentation, another huge threat to the dusky langur is the illegal poaching and wildlife trade. The high demand for exotic animals as pets has caused an unrecorded number of monkey deaths, as poachers must annihilate an entire family group just to retrieve the baby; in a tragic twist, the baby soon follows its family, unable to live long without proper care. Still, most local residents have no idea on the population status of dusky langurs and why it is important to preserve the species and their surrounding natural habitat.
Sadly, demand is high on the illegal dusky langur trade.
With these threats in mind, the LPP positions itself as an outreach project under the umbrella of the Malaysian Primatological Society (MPS) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). LPP is a research project that studies the ecology and behavior of the Dusky Langur. Initiated since January 2016, LPP aims to serve as a platform for environmental research and education for students and the local community. Founded by Joleen Yap, who is now a Ph.D. (Zoology) student in USM, she leads a small team of passionate and enthusiastic individuals of different backgrounds, established LPP to reach out to public of all ages to educate them about the importance of a healthy ecological cycle through fieldwork, citizen science conservation programmes and nature education.
LPP counts members from numerical backgrounds and ethnics!
LPP is actively involved in various wildlife conservation events and programmes in Penang and other parts of Peninsular Malaysia, where these efforts aim to expose local residents of all backgrounds toward the importance of conserving our natural resources (flora and fauna). To attract people’s attention toward understanding of rainforest ecosystem, LPP places dusky langurs as the ‘ambassador’ of the forest, where people get the chance to learn about the langurs’ homes (natural habitats), friends (sympatric species) and food (native plants). This serves as a complete forest education syllabus to the young and elders.
Our project founder, Joleen, and project assistant, Wen, tracking the langurs on the hills
We will be updating more information regarding LPP soon in this blog! From fieldwork to education and conservation aspects. For more interesting updates regarding LPP, please visit these following links: