BQLive Volunteer Guide: The Elusive Raffles’ Banded Langur

Recently, camera traps captured a troop of Raffles’ Banded Langurs nimbly crossing a rope bridge near Thomson Nature Park. One curious individual even stopped for a selfie!

The video was shared on Facebook by Second Minister for National Development, Desmond Lee:

What are Raffles’ Banded Langurs, and what is so special about them? Here are 5 facts about the Raffles’ Banded Langurs:

A pair of Raffles Banded Langurs (Photo by Cheryl Yong)

#1 They are an arboreal primate species.

These black-and-white monkeys are most likely found up in the canopy, and rarely on the ground. Aside from swinging and leaping from branch to branch, they enjoy snacking on young leaves and fruit.

#2 They were discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles.

Yes, as you might have guessed from its name, this species was first described by the founder of modern Singapore in 1822.

#3 Today, they are found only in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Up to the 1920s, sightings of Raffles’ Banded Langurs had been reported across the island, from Changi to Tuas. Today, sadly, they can only be seen in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the Nature Parks along its fringes.

How about in the adjacent Bukit Timah Nature Reserve? It was home to a troop, until its last member was mauled by dogs in 1987.

The construction of the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) in 1983 resulted in the splitting of the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment forests (they previously formed a contiguous patch). As a result, the Langurs’ movements and gene flow became effectively restricted to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

#4 They are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Singapore Red Data Book. 

There are only about 60 individuals remaining. Given their dwindling numbers and their more elusive behaviour, they are nowhere nearly as commonly seen as another primate species, the Long-tailed Macaque. 

#5 They are the star of a David Attenborough documentary

Being possibly one of the rarest of our wildlife, there have been efforts to save this species. These include the formation of a Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group in 2016, and a dedicated Species Action Plan for their long-term conservation. More recently, their story was shared with a wider audience, when a troop of Raffles’ Banded Langurs had a starring role in a Wild City documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough! Check it out here.

Want to know more about primates in Singapore? Join our next Burning Questions LIVE with a Volunteer Guide from the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore). RSVP by Wednesday 20 May 2020.

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