No More ‘Monkey Business’ in Jakarta

'Masked Monkey' in Jakarta. Photo from Flickr of rizky-kitsuneramen (CC License)

‘Masked Monkey’ in Jakarta. Photo from Flickr of rizky-kitsuneramen (CC License)

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo or Jokowi has vowed that there will be no more “topeng monyet” (masked monkey) shows in the streets of Jakarta in 2014. The campaign called ‘Jakarta Bebas Topeng Monyet 2014′ (Jakarta Free of Masked Monkey Performers 2014) is aimed primarily at protecting animal welfare.

The monkeys will be transferred to a one-hectare field at Ragunan Zoo and owners will be compensated. The government will also provide skills training and alternative livelihood opportunities to monkey trainers. There are about 700 people in East Jakarta alone who will be affected by the government’s new regulation.

One of the supporters of the new initiative is Jakarta Animal Aid Network. The group elaborated on how animal abuse is done through these topeng monyet shows:

This is a particularly cruel practice where juvenile macaques are forced to perform (dance, ride bikes) in the crowded and busy streets of Jakarta.

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.

The macaques 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 the skin, leading to horrific infections and tetanus. Macaques are highly social creatures and in need of social contact. Macaques also form potential health hazards in urban areas due to the likeliness of disease transfer.

There are several YouTube videos which show how these topeng monyet street performances are organized for entertainment or begging:

At the 3:00 mark, this video reveals how the monkeys are abused during the training:

The government campaign to ban topeng monyet was greeted by many Twitter users:

But Indonesian Street Life is urging the government to address child labor first before protecting the monkeys:

My point is simple: Children before monkeys.

The monkey show is not actually a performance, but just a begging strategy. The lovely friend with a long tail is exploited and I also believe the current situation should be improved.

The greatest concern of me is the possibility of worsening exploited kids’ life by just getting rid of monkeys. Who can say that the guys who used to have monkeys is not going to use alternatives? You know what, the most likely candidates are kids.

In my view, the concern of the governor is mainly on international image.


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