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No monkey business in eradicating animal abuse

The city administration has not wasted any time in its attempt to free itself of animal abuse allegations.

In a series of raids that have been carried out across the city since Monday, the Public Order Agency as of Wednesday has rounded up 10 monkeys used in street attractions, locally known as topeng monyet.

A monkey seized from an itinerant circus group undergoes a health check at the Animal Health Agency office in Jakarta on Wednesday. (The Jakarta Post)
A monkey seized from an itinerant circus group undergoes a health check at the Animal Health Agency office in Jakarta on Wednesday. (The Jakarta Post)
While the city administration compensated the handlers with money, the monkeys, who were collected from the streets of West, East, South and North Jakarta, were placed in a quarantine facility belonging to the Jakarta Marine and Agriculture Agency.

Agency head Ipih Ruyani said on Wednesday that the monkeys were not in a good condition. “They looked stressed and depressed,” she said.

She said the monkeys would be treated before they were transferred to a special enclosure set up for the rescued monkeys at Ragunan Zoo, South Jakarta.

“We estimate that there are 60 exploited monkeys in the capital ― mostly in North and East Jakarta,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inspected the monkeys at the National Monument square.

The governor said that he would not apply a repressive approach in dealing with the monkey exploiters.

“I have instructed all related agencies to take care of the monkeys and the owners. We will give the owners ‘monkey money’,” Jokowi said, declining to elaborate on the details.

According to Ipih, the agency will give the owners Rp 1 million ($89) for each rescued monkey.

“They usually sell one monkey for about Rp 200,000 to Rp 300,000. It’s the governor’s policy to give them cash so they can start another business,” she cited.

Dede, a handler of two monkeys since 2000, said he would comply with the policy now that he was aware of the legal consequences for mistreating animals.

The Criminal Code states that animal abuse is punishable by seven years in prison.

“I have met with the governor and I accepted the policy. I heard the city banned masked monkey shows in 2007 but nothing happened,” Dede, who used to earn about Rp 70,000 per day, said after a meeting with the governor and city officials at City Hall.

Dede, who bought the monkeys for Rp 2 million using borrowed money, promised that he would find another job.

“I am thinking about setting up a small business,” he said.

Jakarta Social Agency head Kian Kelana said the agency was prepared to accommodate the monkey handlers.

“We can provide them with shelter and training. However, some of them have opted to return to their respective hometowns,” Kian said.

According to the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, most monkeys used for the shows were usually tortured to make them obedient. The monkeys usually lived with their handler.

Such practices pose health risks for both the monkeys and their handlers as monkeys with tuberculosis could transmit the disease to humans and vice versa.

JAAN recorded 300 long-tail monkeys were exploited in masked monkey shows in 2012.

Responding to criticism that Jokowi had prioritized monkeys over meeting street children in an event in Cijantung, East Jakarta, Jokowi responded with a smile.

“We are struggling to work on all issues simultaneously. We already have 26 shelter homes that can accommodate more than 3,000 children, but street children keep appearing on the streets. We need a different approach,” he said.

He also welcomed suggestions to solve urban issues.

“If you have an idea, please tell me. I’d love to discuss it,” he added.

By Sita W. Dewi

(The Jakarta Post )