The Associated Press
Macaques eat bananas during feeding time in the Sangeh Monkey Forest in Sangeh, Bali Island, Indonesia, Wednesday, September 1, 2021. (AP Photo / Firdia Lisnawati)
SANGEH, INDONESIA –
Deprived of their preferred source of food – bananas, peanuts and other goodies brought by tourists who are now being kept away from the coronavirus – hungry monkeys on the holiday island of Bali have raided villagers’ homes in search of something tasty.
Villagers in Sangeh say the gray long-tailed macaques ventured out of a sanctuary 500 meters away to hang on their rooftops, waiting for the right time to grab a snack.
Concerned that the sporadic operations could escalate into a total monkey attack on the village, the residents brought fruit, peanuts and other food to the monkey forest of Sangeh to try to appease the primates.
« We are afraid that the hungry monkeys will become wild and vicious, » said the villager Saskara Gustu Alit.
About 600 of the macaques live in the forest reserve, swing from the tall nutmeg trees and jump over the famous Pura Bukit Sari temple and are considered sacred.
In normal times, the protected jungle area in the southeast of the Indonesian island is popular with both locals for wedding photos and international visitors. The relatively tame monkeys can easily be made to sit on one shoulder or on your lap for a peanut or two.
Typically, tourism is the main source of income for Bali’s 4 million residents, who welcomed more than 5 million foreign visitors annually before the pandemic.
The Sangeh Monkey Forest normally had around 6,000 visitors a month, but as the pandemic spread over the past year and international travel decreased dramatically, that number dropped to around 500.
Since Indonesia banned all foreign travelers to the island in July and also closed the sanctuary to local residents, there has been no one.
Not only has this resulted in no one bringing additional food for the monkeys, the sanctuary has lost its entry fees and has no more money to buy food for them, said manager Made Mohon.
The donations from the villagers have helped, but they also feel the economic hardship and are gradually giving less and less, he said.
« This ongoing pandemic is beyond our expectations, » said Made Mohon, « food for monkeys has become a problem. »
Food costs are around 850,000 rupiah ($ 60) a day, for 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of cassava, the monkey’s staple food, and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of bananas, according to Made Mohon.
The macaque is omnivorous and can eat a variety of animals and plants found in the jungle, but those in the Sangeh Monkey Forest have had enough human contact over the years that they seem to prefer other things.
Often monkeys wander into the village and sit on roofs, occasionally removing tiles and dropping them to the ground. When the villagers daily offer religious food offerings on their terraces, the monkeys jump down and run away with them.
« A few days ago I attended a traditional ceremony in a temple near the Sangeh Forest, » said Gustu Alit. « When I parked my car and took out two plastic bags with food and flowers as offerings, two monkeys suddenly appeared, packed everything and ran very quickly into the forest. »
Usually the monkeys spend all day interacting with visitors – stealing sunglasses and water bottles, pulling on clothes, jumping on shoulders – and Gustu Alit theorizes that they get bored not just hungry.
« That’s why I pushed the villagers here to come into the forest to play with the monkeys and offer them food, » he said. « I think you need to interact with people as often as possible to keep them from going wild. »
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