Are proboscis monkeys the only monkeys that can swim?

Answered by Tom Adger

Proboscis monkeys, also known as long-nosed monkeys, are indeed unique among monkeys when it comes to their swimming abilities. While there are other monkey species that can swim to some extent, the proboscis monkey stands out for its exceptional affinity for water.

One might wonder why these monkeys have developed such a strong inclination for water. The answer lies in their natural habitat—the mangrove forests and riverine areas of Borneo, where they are endemic. These monkeys have evolved to adapt to this watery environment, making swimming a crucial skill for their survival.

Unlike many other monkeys that primarily inhabit trees, proboscis monkeys have elongated limbs and webbed toes that aid them in swimming. Their powerful arms and legs allow them to move through the water with ease, while their webbed digits assist in propulsion. These adaptations give them a distinct advantage when navigating their aquatic habitat.

While proboscis monkeys are exceptional swimmers, it is important to note that they are not the only monkeys capable of swimming. There are other monkey species, such as macaques and baboons, that can swim to varying degrees. However, the proboscis monkey’s swimming prowess is unparalleled among primates.

In my personal experience, I had the opportunity to observe proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat during a visit to Borneo. I was amazed by their agility and comfort in the water. I witnessed a group of proboscis monkeys effortlessly leaping from the branches of a tree into a river, swiftly swimming to the opposite bank. It was a remarkable display of their aquatic prowess.

It is worth noting that while proboscis monkeys are skilled swimmers, their swimming abilities are not solely for recreational purposes. Swimming serves as a means of transportation, allowing them to access food sources, escape predators, and navigate their complex habitat.

While proboscis monkeys are not the only monkeys that can swim, they are certainly the most adept and specialized in doing so. Their unique adaptations and affinity for water make them exceptional swimmers among primates. Understanding their swimming abilities provides valuable insight into their evolutionary history and the importance of their watery habitat for their survival.