Mammal watching in Malaysia … A trip report from a local

We have been living on the island of Penang, in Malaysia for about 18months. Although Penang boasts a population of 1.5M and has a thriving business and shopping district, many mammals are visible on the mountain hiking trails, the national parks and botanical gardens. Penang, Langkawi and Peninsular Malaysia are home to many kinds of monkeys: The Long Tail Macaques are the most common, living in packs of 10-30. It is easy to spot the Alpha Male, and the guard males and really fun to watch the females with the babies playing in the afternoons. You are guaranteed to see dozens of these monkeys in the Botanical Gardens in Penang at any time of the day and any season of the year. There are also a few Pig Tail Macaques (these are similar in color to the Long Tail), but are larger, their face is hairless like a person, they are much more aggressive, and their tails are short and curly. Because these animals are trainable to work picking coconuts they are now much harder to see in the wild.  I did spot a mixed pack (Long & Pig Tail) on my way back from Fraser Hill, Malaysia which is about 2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur. My most favorite monkeys are the beautiful Dusky Leaf, who live in the canopy, and almost never touch the floor. They are black in color with a white ring around the mouth and both eyes, and have an extremely long tail. They are from the gibbons family. They are larger than the Macaques, and fly through the trees like Tarzan in the cartoons. They are very hard to spot, but you can hear them whistle an alert as you approach them. Once you see one, keep looking in the tree canopy and eventually you will see the second, and then the third, etc until you see the entire pack. In the Botanical Gardens of Penang, I have always seen the same pack, which has 12 monkeys that are always seen together.  In Malacca, if you take the tourist train, you can see dozens of Silver Leaf Monkeys which are very tame. The locals sell leaves for any tourist to hand feed these beautiful black monkeys with a Mohawk.  It was a rush for me and my children to feed them by hand with absolutely no fear. They were tender and gentle and would hold me by the one hand, while feeding from my other.  Finally, the last type of monkey I have seen in the wild, I saw today for the first time. I saw several huge Banded Langurs in the highlands of Fraser Hill. I only caught a quick glimpse, but I understand these are fairly easy to spot.

Other common mammals easily visible include the Giant Black Squirrel, which is about as big as a large cat, and has a huge bushy black tail, a black body, with a beautiful rust colored neck and stomach. These are harder to spot, as they run very quickly and don’t sit still for long. On Penang Hill, you can spot them feeding in July for extended periods in the fruit trees of the David Brown Strawberry Hill restaurant. Finally, for some reason, almost all the house cats on the island of Penang are of the short tailed varierty. They are smaller than the cats in the US, and have tails about 2-3 inches long, some of which are curly on the end…. go figure!

I have tons of pictures but am unable to post them via this website for some reason… I’ll keep trying, but please feel free to give me hints how to post pictures by sending me email

Happy Mammal Watching!

1 Comment

  • nyonyapearl


    I love your post!

    As for adding photos, did you see the button above “add media”? The first is for image, video, audio and media.

    Point your mouse to image and click. Give it some time and then it will ask you where is your photos. Upload it

    Just remember to minimise the photos before uploading.

    All the best. I would love the pictures!
    Thanks for sharing your story.


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