Around Asia: Indonesian govt stepping up efforts to end masked monkey shows

Indonesian authorities are combing through Jakarta in an effort to rescue macaques used in roadside shows in the capital’s crowded streets.

The raids were prompted after Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo ordered a citywide ban of the popular street masked monkey performances, known locally as topeng monyet.

The move is aimed at ending animal abuse and the potential spread of disease carried by the monkeys, Widodo said, adding that he wants all of the so-called monkey business gone by next year.

According to The Associated Press, the city government will buy back all monkeys from street buskers for about $90 and shelter them at a 1-hectare (2.5-acre) preserve at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo.

The monkey’s handlers will also be offered vocational training to help them find new jobs.

Animal rights groups have long campaigned for a ban on the shows, which often involves monkeys wearing plastic baby doll heads on their faces.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network said the animals are chained un an upright position for long periods of time and trained to walk on their hind legs like humans. They are also beaten to remain obedient and their teeth are removed so they can’t bite.

Femke den Haas of JAAN welcomed the decision, saying at least 22 monkeys have been rescued and quarantined for health checks since the sweep began last week.

“After lobbying and working tireless [sic] since 2009, there are finally fantastic results!” JAAN posted on its Facebook page.

In 2011, backed by the city administration, the group rescued 40 monkeys used in shows. Most of the animals suffered illnesses, including tuberculosis and hepatitis.

There are still an estimated 350 monkeys working as street performers in Jakarta, and they are no longer able to live with other primates in zoos and cannot defend themselves in the wild.

Many of the macaques are trained at a slum area in eastern Jakarta, known as “monkey village,” and can be sold for up to $135.

By Maisie Bertumen

Image: kemphoto/Flickr

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