Raffles’ banded langur (Banded leaf monkey)
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The Raffles' banded langur (Presbytis femoralis femoralis) is one of only two types of monkeys that are native to Singapore. However, this black-and-white monkey is on the verge of extinction in Singapore as there are less than 30 individuals left. In the 2008 edition of The Singapore Red Data Book, it is listed as "critically endangered". Some people believe that their demise in Singapore would be a loss not just to Singapore but also to the world because they can only be found here, though this has not been proven conclusively.
The Raffles' banded langur is a subspecies of the banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis), which belongs to the primate family of Cercopithecidae, also known as the "Old World monkeys". It was first described in 1838 from specimens collected in Singapore. According to a recent book compiled by the Vertebrate Study Group of the Nature Society (Singapore), it can grow up to 59cm long, or 84cm including the tail. In the same book, Wild Animals of Singapore, its call was described as sounding like the rattle of a machine gun.
It has a round head and a short muzzle, and rather delicate facial features compared to other monkeys. Its slim body is mostly covered with black fur except for some distinctive white "bands", hence its name. A white line runs down the middle of its chest and belly, and the fur on the inner parts of its arms and legs until just below the knee is white. Each eye has a light-coloured ring encircling it and there is a pale crescent shape between the eye and the ear on both sides of the face.
An arboreal monkey, it inhabits high treetops in tropical rainforests and hardly ever comes to the ground. It is a herbivore and feeds mainly on fruits and new leaves from selected trees. It is also a gregarious animal, normally associating in groups and travelling together with fellow troop mates.
The subspecies in Singapore is considered by zoologists to be the "nominate" form of the species. This means that it is the primary subspecies from which the other subspecies in the species originated. Other subspecies that have been identified include the Robinson's banded langur (Presbytis femoralis robinsoni), the East Sumatran banded langur (Presbytis femoralis percura) and the Bornean banded langur (Presbytis femoralis chrysomelas). However, it should be noted that the taxonomy of this species is still the subject of much dispute.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the Raffles' banded langur is native to Singapore and the southern part of Peninsular Malaysia. However, some people believe that Singapore's Raffles' banded langurs may be an endemic subspecies that is distinct from the population in Johor, Malaysia.
In the 1920s, this monkey was reported to be present in various parts of Singapore, including Changi, Tampines, Bukit Timah, Pandan and Tuas. Currently, it is found only in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
The last of the troop in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve died in October 1987. All alone and cut off from the rest of the population in the Central Catchment Area by the Bukit Timah Expressway, the elderly female climbed down a tree and was killed by a pack of dogs. She is now one of the specimens displayed at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.
Although these monkeys were hunted for food in the past, the main threat to their survival today is habitat loss. Singapore's rapid urbanisation has taken away much of their natural habitat, the forests. Now with less than 30 of them left, it is feared that the remaining population is already too small to be self-sustaining.
The Raffles' banded langur is protected in Singapore under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act. The Act was first enacted in 1989, but it was repealed and re-enacted in 2006 to strengthen the enforcement of the Act and increase the penalties for illegal wildlife trade.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is responsible for administering the Act and it may issue permits for the import or export of protected animals like the monkey if certain conditions are met. Under the Act, anyone caught smuggling endangered species is liable to be prosecuted in court and fined a maximum of S$50,000 for each animal and/or jailed for up to two years.
Scientific name: Presbytis femoralis femoralis (subspecies)
Common name: Raffles' banded langur
Scientific name: Presbytis femoralis (species)
- English - Banded leaf monkey, banded langur, banded surili
- Dutch - Bandlangoer
- Spanish - Langur Mitrado
- Swedish - Bandad Bladapa, Siambladapa
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.