Monkey Business Is No Joke for Wealthy Jakarta Housing Estate

By webadmin on 11:50 pm Dec 19, 2010
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Arientha Primanita

Jakarta. The monkeys of the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve in North Jakarta apparently need a little adventure in their lives, and they have found it by sneaking into a neighboring luxury housing complex in search of snacks.

When the Jakarta Globe visited on Sunday, the creatures — the Macaca Fascicularis type, or longtail monkeys — were playing in trees or hopping on the roof of a small hut near the entrance to the 25-hectare reserve, a rare slice of nature in Jakarta’s urban jungle.

But Resijati Wasito, a forest policeman working at the reserve, said that during the past couple of years, residents from the nearby Bukit Golf Mediterania luxury housing estate have complained about monkeys jumping over the fence in search of food.

They take fruit from residents’ trees, invade garbage cans and even steal offerings laid out by some people at Chinese-style household altars, Resijati said.

He blamed the incidents largely on “visiting monkeys,” former pets who were abandoned by their owners and dumped in the reserve. “They are too used to human food,” Resijati said.

The 100 or so primates, the largest the size of a toddler, travel by treetop or swim to the housing estate.

Just as the dwindling numbers of wild elephants and tigers sometimes encroach on villages in Sumatra, these monkeys are a reminder of a wilder past, before humans turned animal habitats into subdivisions.

The monkeys share the mangrove reserve — the last in Jakarta — with cobras, pythons, lizards and 91 varieties of birds.

The luxury estate is a carefully landscaped development with large houses, security guards and gated access to keep nearby squatters and other visitors at bay.

Bukit Golf resident Sudarman Lim, a neighborhood chief in the complex, said the monkeys have been regular visitors since he moved in two years ago, but residents’ complaints to the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) have resulted in a number of monkeys being caught inside the complex and removed from the area.

“There were many more monkeys back then than now,” Sudarman said. But residents want the larger monkeys relocated entirely because they fear they might be dangerous, he added.

“We don’t want to remove all the monkeys. The little monkeys can stay, but we want the big monkeys moved,” he said.

Complaints from residents have been sent to the developer, Multi Artha Pratama, and forwarded to the BKSDA, which oversees Muara Angke.

Pramudya Harzani, a spokesman for the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, an NGO, said his group was opposed to relocating any monkeys, saying they and the mangrove forest have been here for centuries.

“The humans are the ones that should adjust, especially since they bought houses near the wildlife reserve,” he said.

Pramudya said the JAAN is trying to encourage coexistence, handing out leaflets explaining that monkeys are not dangerous and speaking to students.

For forest guard Reslijati, the monkeys have been constant companions since he began working there eight years ago.

He encouraged nearby human residents to learn a bit of monkey psychology.

“The monkeys are not aggressive. Just don’t look them in the eye — that they will take as a challenge,” he said.