Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monkeys a handful at Cibubur urban forest


Monkeys a handful at Cibubur urban forest
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 02/22/2005 11:46 AM | Life

Bambang Parlupi, Contributor, Jakarta

The Indonesian Scout Camping Ground and Tourism Complex, Buperta Pramuka, in Cibubur, to the south of Jakarta, is one of few urban forests close to the capital city.

The 210-hectare site is surrounded by low-lying forest, agricultural land, swamps and a freshwater lake. It is a popular camping ground for school and university students and members of the scout movement at weekends and on school holidays.

The land occupied by Buperta Pramuka, which was inaugurated on August 14, 1973, borders with Bogor regency and is a water catchment.

Visitors can easily see various species of birds and insects, but reptiles, such as lizards and cobras, green snakes and pythons, are harder to spot. Buperta Pramuka is now also home to quite a large group of long-tailed monkeys (Facaca fascucilaris).

Boeddy S. Erawan, 60, coordinator of the staff experts of Buperta Pramuka said that there were about 200 monkeys living in the camping grounds.

""They are found in four locations. Two groups of some 60 monkeys live around the entrance gate and in the parking area. Two smaller groups, of some 40 monkeys each, are found around the lake and in the fishing area.

""Two smaller groups have also been sighted around the forest and in the employees housing complex,"" said Boeddy, who, five years ago, was deputy head of Buperta Pramuka.

As far as he could remember, Boeddy said, the monkeys first appeared in the area in the early 1990s. No one knew how they got there, but the forested area not far from the information center soon became their home.

""There were no more than 10 in total. The management gave them food like bananas, papaya, corn or sweet potatoes every day,"" Boeddy said.

Also, plenty of food suitable for monkeys such as sapodilla, rose apples and mangoes was there for the picking. ""The management no longer feeds the monkeys because there are over two hundred of them now,"" he said.

Incoming monkeys left by public

Later, other monkeys were introduced to the area by members of the public, Boeddy said. The owners left them covertly at the entrance gate or near the fence in the forested area close to the Jagorawi toll road. They were left there without the permission of Buperta Pramuka management. These newcomers, however, have not been made to feel welcome.

""If you see a group of these primates chasing a monkey, you can be sure that someone has just left it in this area. Many newcomers have been wounded or even killed by the old 'residents',"" he said.

Many people have left their monkeys in Cibubur forest following the government's campaign against illegally kept monkeys. ""Not only black or gray long-tailed monkeys but also short-tailed macaques have been left here,"" he said.

He added that the presence of monkeys in this area was troublesome for the management and also for visitors, who total some 10,000 to 15,000 people a week.

""The management of the area does not really understand how to handle and control the monkeys as their number continues to grow. If they are hungry, they will bother the visitors or leave this area.""

Some monkeys, he said, had caused trouble for people living in the employees' housing compound. ""Luckily, many visitors have food for them, such as bread, nuts, biscuits and bananas. Food is also thrown from cars to the monkeys at the front gate, near the toll road,"" he said.

In 2004, he said, the management reported this matter to the Jakarta office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of the ministry of forestry. However, they did not get any response.

The management has also written a letter to the management of Ragunan Zoo in Pasar Minggu, asking for help to handle the monkey problem.

""However, the zoo simply carried out a survey here,"" Boeddy said. ""I once suggested that the monkeys be moved to other places, but we don't have the money and don't know the correct way to do that,"" he said, adding that nobody had tried to hunt or disturb the monkeys staying in the camping ground.

Primatologist from National University Jakarta, Drs. Imran SL. Tobing, Ssi, said that long-tailed monkeys were not protected by the government.

Hardy survivors

They are found in Sumatra, Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara and Kalimantan. In some areas, they are considered a pest as they often damage people's plantations. Long-tailed monkeys are greedy creatures,"" he said. ""They are omnivorous -- fruit, the tips of leaves, people's leftovers and even trash -- it's all tasty to them,"" Imran said.

They are superior to other species of monkeys in that they can survive virtually anywhere.

They live in groups and will split into smaller groups if their own group has become too big. In the forest, they are preyed upon by tigers, hawks, owls, monitor lizards, snakes and human beings.

If they live near urban areas, they are threatened by only a few predators. Undomesticated animals like monkeys play an important role in nature. They spread plant seeds, said Imran, who is a lecturer of animal ecology at the National University school of biology.

Over the past decade, the number of long-tailed monkeys has increased very rapidly. The management of Buperta Pramuka does not allow these monkeys to be disturbed or taken away. The gray long-tailed monkeys can be seen between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and also between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

They run about looking for food or play around the front gate, the parking ground, the yard of the information center or in the garbage dump.

Many of them gather by the roadside, looking for food or chasing one another, hopping from one branch to another or even running along electricity cables.

Most of the monkeys are tame and not scared by the presence of human beings.

They will often approach people who are carrying food or a drink. Scores of them will move closer and closer, lured by the smell or shiny packaging of food items.

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