Lifestyle

Indonesian city to end masked monkey shows

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's capital is getting rid of the monkey business.

Security forces are conducting raids to rescue macaques used in masked monkey performances on Jakarta's streets. The order came from Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo, better known as "Jokowi," who wants all roadside monkey performances — known here as topeng monyet — gone by next year.

He said that besides improving public order and stopping animal abuse, the move is aimed at preventing diseases carried by the monkeys. The city government will buy back all monkeys used as street buskers for about $90 and shelter them at a 1-hectare (2.5-acre) preserve at Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo. The handlers and caretakers will be provided vocational training to help find new jobs.

Animal rights groups have long campaigned for a ban on the shows, which often involve monkeys wearing plastic baby doll heads on their faces. They say the monkeys are hung from chains for long periods to train them to walk on their hind legs like humans. Their teeth are pulled so they can't bite, and they are tortured to remain obedient. The monkeys are often outfitted in dresses and cowboy hats and forced to carry parasols or ride tiny bikes.

Femke den Haas of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network welcomed the decision, saying at least 22 monkeys have been rescued since the sweep began last week and quarantined for health issues. She estimated about 350 animals work as street performers in Jakarta, adding they are no longer able to live with other primates in zoos and cannot defend themselves in the wild.

In 2011, backed by the city administration, the group rescued 40 monkeys used in shows, which are often performed when traffic is backed up at Jakarta's notoriously congested intersections. Many suffered illnesses, including tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Many of the macaques are trained at a slum area in eastern Jakarta, known locally as "monkey village." A trained macaque can be sold for up to $135. Sarinah, 37, who owns 13 monkeys used in the daily street shows, said the ban has hurt her livelihood. Seven of her macaques have been confiscated in recent raids.

"Of course I'm disappointed ... but I cannot do anything!" said Sarinah, a mother of three who uses a single name like many Indonesians. She said she takes good care of the animals and loves them like her own children.

"They are the source of our life, how could we be cruel to them? No way," she said, adding that she earns about $3 daily from each monkey rented out to handlers. She said she will keep her remaining monkeys hidden while waiting for a new job.

The mayor of Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java, has announced plans to ban monkey shows there as well.

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