The Lutungs of Perhentian Island

Ju Waran

Lutungs are sweet little creatures found in the jungles of South East Asia. On Perhentian Island, they are a common sight and unlike the popular notion of expected mischief from monkeys, these creatures are simply observers of their more dangerous counterparts, us!

The islands of Perhentian, got their name from their role as a stopping point (translation of perhentian) between traders traversing the routes of Bangkok and Malaysia. It appears in the 19th and 20th century maps as 'The Station Islands' from the British colonial period, as an English translation of "stopping point".

Perhentian Island comprises a cluster of five islands, but the two main habitable islands are Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. Both started off with clear blue waters and clean sandy beaches. Unfortunately, too many tourists have pretty much destroyed that!!! Yeah, the beaches are nice, the waters are still blue in ‘certain’ stretched but seriously folks…we gotta let nature just be! Many resorts on both islands are irresponsibly discharging waste into the sea. Facepalm moment isn’t it??! If anyone wants to question the validity of this statement, take a drone to the skies and see for yourself!

Also, corals are found to be dying, while marine life is not as ‘rich’ as it used to be. Think the authorities care enough to limit visitors, not a chance…not when revenue takes precedence. Perhentian Kecil is so commercialized please get the romantic stroll on the sandy white beach and swimming in the clear blue sea picture out of your heads!

On Perhentian Island Resort, in Perhentian Besar there are far too few rain forest trees nestled amidst far too many chalets that somehow provide refuge to the gorgeous rightful inhabitants of the islands, the Lutungs.
Also known as the Ebony Leaf Monkey, these relatively uncommon species of langur can also be found on some of the Javan islands and have been classified as ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered.’ Congratulations mankind!! Owing to habitat loss, hunting and illegal capture for the pet trade, we have rendered yet another species on dangerous grounds of existence.

The word Lutung is an Indonesian word applied to leaf monkeys in general. ‘Lutung’ also means ‘blackness’ in the Sundanese language. These beautiful, harmless creatures live on trees and are diurnal meaning they are active during the mornings and afternoon and sleep at night. They have dark, glossy black fur, while the young are bright orange, slowing darkening as they mature. They are often found in groups of about 20 called a harem with a single male.

Young males leave their birth group when fully mature, and sometimes form a bachelor group. If a new male takes over a harem, defeating and scaring off the harem leader, he often kills the children of the group. Lutungs are territorial and will shout loudly to defend their territories from other lutung interlopers. They sometimes resort to force if the outsiders are not scared off.

This leaf monkey feeds mainly on fresh, young leaves, as well as flowers and fruits. An interesting characteristic of these monkeys is that the mother shares the responsibility of rearing the young with the other females of the harem. It’s pretty cool to see them hand the young around, play with it and cuddle it while the mother forages for food. So if the mother dies, another female adopts the baby. Lutung reaches full maturity at 4 to 5 years and have a life expectancy of about 20 years only.

In the lowlands of Java Lutungs still survive in a range of habitats including mangrove, freshwater swamp forest and remnant tall, lowland forest. The Javan Lutung can be found on the islands of Java, Bali and nearby, smaller islands. A small population can also be found on the island of Lombok, to the east of Bali. Lombok lies on the easterly side of the Wallace Line, across which primates are unlikely to have naturally migrated. Thus, the Lombok population may have become established from individuals introduced by man in historical times.


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