Jakarta Ramps-Up Efforts to End Masked Monkey Performances
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo announced an innovative solution to rid the capital of masked monkeys on Friday. The government will buyback all monkeys used as street buskers in a campaign that aims to put an end to the cruel practice known locally as topeng monyet.
“This has become an international issue,” Joko said, according to the city government’s news portal. “Have pity on the monkeys because they are being exploited by their owners.”
The costumed long-tailed macaques are a regular fixture on Jakarta’s streets, where they are often in the company of young children busking for spare change. The primates, dressed in tiny outfits, with the head of a doll worn as a mask, are made to carry small buckets for spare change or ride tiny push motorcycles to entertain spectators.
They are taught to walk upright by trainers who hang them from chains, forcing the macaques to use their hind legs instead of walking on all fours. Most are trained and sold from East Jakarta’s South Cipinang Besar slum, an area known locally as Kampung Monyet, or monkey village.
Animal rights groups have long-campaigned for a government order banning the barbaric practice. Former Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo allowed the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) to seize the monkeys off the streets, but stopped short of issuing a by-law banning their use.
When JAAN confiscated 21 monkeys in August of last year, four tested positive for a host of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, hepatitis, herpes and tetanus, raising concerns of a disease outbreak in Jakarta.
The group has since began an awareness campaign, informing buskers that they monkeys are both in violation of Indonesian law and possible carriers of disease.
Joko’s administration ordered the city’s Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) to crackdown on the practice. Plain-clothes officers began seizing street monkeys as early as February of this year, confiscating the primates and issuing penalties to their handlers.
The Jakarta government prepared a one-hectare field at Ragunan Zoo to house the purchased macaques. The street buskers will be taught career skills to find a new job, Joko said. The administration aims to make Jakarta topeng monyet-free by 2014.
“We will provide training for the animal caretakers,” Joko said.