The Plight of the Macaque
Macaques are one of the most traded primate species in Indonesian pet markets. However, unlike the slow loris, which is listed as endangered and supposedly protected by national and international laws, there is no legislation to protect pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques from exploitation and abuse. Thousands are caught from the wild and exported to overseas laboratories for research, kept in chains or cramped cages as pets or brutally trained to perform for tourists on the streets and even eaten as a delicacy.
Our work helping macaques in Indonesia has a number of key aims: to improve the lives of individual animals through our rescue, rehabilitation and release programme at our primate centre in Ciapus, Java; to increase understanding and tolerance of macaques among local communities through education; to raise awareness of the dangers of keeping macaques as pets and the risk of zoonotic diseases; and to campaign to win macaques some legal protection in Indonesia.
Our team rescues macaques which have often spent years in captivity. After rescue, veterinary check-ups and a period in quarantine, their rehabilitation can begin in earnest. This involves working hard to remind these animals that they are wild, since most have spent their lives as pets, away from their own species, consuming human food and behaving in a way that is not normal in the wild. It requires a specific diet and feeding pattern that will make them work for their food – something they must learn if they are to survive.
The next step is to socialise the macaques in the groups they will live in once they are released. This process can take months, even years. Once they form a solid group and are showing wild behaviours, they are ready to be reintroduced.
Ciapus primate centre
Our primate rescue centre is set in the beautiful rainforest of Ciapus, near Bogor, on the island of Java. It is about three hours' drive from Jakarta. Our team focuses on the rehabilitation and release of the endangered slow loris and long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques. The centre has a fully equipped veterinary clinic, spacious primate socialisation enclosures, a public education centre, accommodation for volunteers and visitors and a viewing platform for observing the animals. Set apart from the other buildings are quarantine enclosures for new or sick animals.
After rescue, veterinary check-ups and a period in quarantine, the macaques are socialised in groups. Over time they learn to behave like monkeys again and establish a natural hierarchy before being released back into the wild.
Our team also works with the Forestry Department and the Jakarta police to catch illegal wildlife dealers and ensure they are severely punished, sending out a strong message to other traffickers that their crimes carry heavy penalties in court.
Education is a vital part of our work in Indonesia to increase people's understanding of their native wildlife and motivate them to respect and protect it. The education team in Ciapus frequently gives talks and presentations to visiting schoolchildren and other local groups. The animals in rehabilitation at the centre demonstrate to visitors how primates look and behave if they are given the freedom to live as nature intended.