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Bebas Topeng Monyet “Dancing Monkeys” Rescue and Rehabilitation Indonesia

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Long Tailed Macaques are extremely popular in Indonesia as they are used as Dancing Monkeys, Topeng Monyet is what they are called in locally. This is a very cruel practice. Wild@Life and their partners JAAN is working to end this practice.
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) .

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 phenomenon 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. Wild@Life and JAAN has joined forces.

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.

Governor Jokowi agreed with the need to stop this practice. The new regulation formed by him was implemented 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.
We will continue to campaign for a total ban of keeping primates as pets and will continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release these primates back to the wilderness

What have we accomplished so far?

The following steps has been taken: Investigation in the industry called ‘Topeng Monyet’ in DKI; Meetings with local government; Campaign (demonstrations); Confiscations of Dancing Monkeys; Construct facilities and a care-taking team for confiscated monkeys; Organize a workshop for police officials and local government officials; Trainings for government officials in the handling of primates; Coordinate with local Government under the management of Governor Jokowi; provide a draft for a local regulation to prohibit dancing monkeys; Obtained approval for a law to prohibit Topeng Monyet which has come info force.

How did we take these steps?

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.

Since Macaques are still not protected in Indonesia, the forestry department was uncooperative and uninterested 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 meetings continued with them, 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 letters, finally a statement was obtained in public by DKI Jakarta’s Fauji Bowo that Topeng Monyet should be banned in Jakarta and we could count on help from the local government to confiscate monkeys from Jakarta’s streets.

40 Dancing Monkeys were confiscated 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.

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 obtain the diseases from the people first then after is spread to the public. So any child that come near the Dancing Monkeys, watching as its supposed to be ‘fun’ to watch, is not only exposed to a bad form of education (that its 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.

We will continue to campaign for a total ban of keeping primates as pets and will continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release these primates back to the wilderness

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Thank you for believing in us.

Asli Han Gedik

Wild@Life e.V.