Saving Indonesia’s ‘Dancing Monkeys’
The goal of the project is to ensure the implementation of enhanced welfare standards for Indonesian primates, with an initial focus on ending the exploitation of Long Tailed Macaques (Macaca Fascicularis) in the Jakarta region.
Long Tailed Macaques are extremely popluar in Indonesia as they are used as Dancing Monkeys, Topeng Monyet is what they are called in the Indonesian Language.
Therefore, this project has a major focus on the Dancing Monkeys. This extremely cruel practice is where juvenile Macaques are forced to perform (dance, ride bikes) in the loud and very crowded busy streets of Jakarta. An illegal trade in wild Macaques has built up around this phenomena known as ‘Topeng Monyet’.
JAAN observed a worrying increase in the use of these monkeys on Jakarta streets since 2009 and has started to campaign against this abuse ever since.
Project Background and Problem Definition
Each year, thousands of Long Tailed Macaques are bred and captured from the wild for sale in Jakarta where they face a life of exploitation and cruelty. There are three main fates that await these Macaques:
1. The pet market (Also including Dancing Monkeys)
2. Research (Exported)
3. Food (Indonesian based Chinese restaurants)
Over recent years JAAN has actively campaigned and lobbied to end the exploitation of Macaques in Indonesia, in particular those macaques used for the cruel ‘Topeng Monyet / Dancing Monkey’ trade.
Young Macaques are caught from the forests by poachers and sold either straight from the trapper/poacher for Rp 25.000 (US$2) or in Jakarta, for Rp. 70,000 (US$7). Macaques are sold in pet shops, bird markets and in front of shopping malls by street vendors. The baby Macaques attract people because they look cute and are cheap to purchase.
The Macaques almost always, can be seen kept on short chains, on the street and often in front of the owner’s house. While growing up to adulthood, the chain often grows into their skin, leading to horrific infections and tetanus. Macaques also form potential health hazards in urban areas due to the likeliness of disease transfer.
Macaques are highly social creatures and in need of social contact.
As a species listed under CITES appendix 2, Macaques should be traded with permits only. Even local traders should obtain a permit from the Forestry Department. In Indonesia, Macaques are trapped, sold and kept without any permits. In Jakarta alone, we encounter many cases yearly where macaques have escaped from their chains and our team is called to capture and relocate the primate.
Recently Governor Jokowi agreed with the need to stop this practice. The new regulation formed by Governor Jokowi was implemented in October 2013 and is a very big step towards primate protection and general animal welfare in Indonesia and will end the cruelty now inflicted on thousands of monkeys captured from the wild to be exploited.
JAAN will continue to campaign for a total ban of keeping primates as pets.
What have we accomplished so far?
JAAN has taken these following steps:
1. Investigation in the industry called ‘Topeng Monyet’ in DKI Jakarta (2009)
2. Meetings with local government (2009, 2010, 2011)
3. Campaign (demonstrations) 2010, 2011)
4. Confiscations of Dancing Monkeys (2011, 2012)
5. Construct facilities and a caretaking team for confiscated monkeys (2011)
6. Organize a workshop for police officials and local government officials, leaded by Indonesia’s veterinary association and JAAN to explain the existing laws we can use to tackle Topeng Monyet (2011)
7. Trainings for government officials in the handling of primates (2012)
8. Coordinate with local Government under the management of Governor Jokowi (2012, 2013); provide a draft for a local regulation to prohibit dancing monkeys
9. Obtained approval for a law to prohibit Topeng Monyet which has come info force effective October 2013 thanks to Governor Jokowi
How did we take these steps?
In 2009, JAAN investigated the Topeng Monyet ‘industry’. Where were they captured originally, where were they are kept in Jakarta, who owned the Monkeys, who trained the monkeys etc.
It turned out that the increase of the use of Dancing Monkeys in Jakarta’ streets could be blamed to three big ‘Monkey Boss’s’ you could say .. who rent out the Monkeys to street children.
The children have to pay per day an amount to the boss (Rp 30.000 – Rp 50.000 (US $3 – $5) and any money they make above this amount is for them. Usually, The children develop a debt with the ‘boss’s’ as they do not make enough money to pay back what they initially owe and, therefore, after a short while are forced to ‘work for free’. This encouraged our team even more to take action as not only the Monkeys are being exploited, the children involved clearly are, too.
Secondly another disturbing fact we found was that the Monkeys are kept under extreme cruel conditions, chained in small, dark cages and the training of the Monkeys, which we witnessed and documented as well, is based on pain and hunger. (Video above)
There you see training methods such as the Monkeys’ feet and hands are tied together to ‘teach’ the Monkey to stand up straight. A small stone is placed under the feet of the Monkey and the Monkey steps from the stone the chain around its neck will choke her/him.
The monkeys’ canine teeth are pulled out with pliers, leaving the Monkeys not only in severe pain but also with infections.
When JAAN concluded all the evidence needed about the ‘Topeng Monyet industry’ in Jakarta. JAAN held meetings with the local government Pemda DKI, attended by all parties that should be involved, including the Forestry Department and officials from Jakarta’s Health Department as there is a big public health risk too, by allowing the monkeys interact with people on Jakarta’s streets. Primates carry diseases that can be transferred to humans and vice-versa, therefore primates bring a risk to public health when openly exposed to humans in public areas.
Since Macaques are still not protected in Indonesia, the forestry department was un-cooperative and un-interested to follow up on our requests to ban Topeng Monyet. The process of catching the baby Monkeys from the wild is in fact illegal but legal action has never been undertaken by the Forestry Department against the capture of long-tailed macaques from Javanese and Sumatran forests. The local government and agriculture department were more interested in the ban and JAAN continued to have meetings with them throughout 2010, while striving to get to Governor Fauji Bowo, as a ban to Topeng Monyet in Jakarta would be the most realistic goal of our efforts.
After many un-replied letters, JAAN finally was able to obtain a statement in public by DKI Jakarta’s Fauji Bowo in 2011 that Topeng Monyet should be banned in Jakarta and JAAN could count on help from the local government to confiscate monkeys from Jakarta’s streets.
Then JAAN, organized a workshop for local police and government officials about the existing animal welfare law and other laws that can be used to tackle the Topeng Monyet industry. This workshop proved very successful as after this workshop , throughout 2011 and 2012 JAAN confiscated 40 Dancing Monkeys in the area of South Jakarta with the assistance and cooperation of local government officials and police.
The monkey owners were given a warning only and set free; the monkeys and all attributes were seized.
10 years later and we are now reaching almost 500 saved Dancing Monkeys
What happens then?
The confiscated Monkeys go through quarantine after which they are socialized in specially built socialization cages. The socialization of the Monkeys is a hard and long process, especially because we deal with badly traumatized animals. The team working with the rescued macaques, therefore, are people experienced with the handling and the behavior of macaques.
20% of all the Monkeys we confiscated and cared for proved to be positive to have Tuberculosis and even Hepatitis and Leptospirosis was found in two individuals. This high rate of Monkeys carrying dangerous diseases shows the dangerous ‘side effect’ of ‘Topeng Monyet’ spreading diseases. After many studies we believe that the Monkeys originally obtained the diseases from the people first, then after is spread to the public. So any child that come near the Dancing Monkeys, watching as it’s supposed to be ‘fun’ to watch, is not only exposed to a very bad form of education (that it’s ok to inflict pain on other beings) but also to various highly dangerous and even deadly diseases.
The ban on Topeng Monyet has expanded from Jakarta to Bandung and Solo. We hope to see a permanent end to this practice all across Indonesia and will continue to campaign until done so.