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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Thirteen long-tailed macaques enjoy their freedom on Panaitan Island, West Java

Boy's GroupThirteen macaques that were released back into the wild after a lifetime in captivity are reported to be thriving, thanks to the team at International Animal Rescue’s primate centre in Ciapus, West Java.

Towards the end of last year, the team released two groups of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) on Panaitan Island-Ujung Kulon National Park West Java. The two groups were known as Boy’s Group and Aquino’s Group. Each individual macaque had arrived at IAR’s centre with a different story: for example Api (‘fire’), Gunung (‘mountain’) and Jogja (‘taken from Yogyakarta province’) were the victims of Merapi’s mountain eruption in Yogyakarta on October 2010. The three monkeys were left by their owner and found chained up. Like other macaques these three had to undergo a rehabilitation process that included behavioural observation, natural food introduction, group forming and enrichment facilitation to stimulate natural behaviour. Once they were regarded as healthy and wild enough they would be released into the wild.

In the wild, macaques live in groups with a dominant male as leader. Boy acts as leader of one group with Evita as adult female and Api, Ariel, Liong and Veron as members. While in the group with Aquino as leader, Annisa is adult female and Rita, Reni, Naeva, Gunung and Jogja are members. The location of the release was different this time: it took place at Legon Haji, whereas before it was at Legon Kadam. One week before the release date, an advance team was sent to prepare the location. They identified a suitable release site and built a habituation cage on it.

In preparation for the big day, medical procedures were carried out on both groups. These included anaesthetisation, general check up, weighing and installing microchips for future identification. Afterwards each macaque was put into a transport cage. At 21.00 Bogor’s time the team left Bogor and headed to the small harbour in Sumur-Pandeglang, Banten.

The vets at the centre ensure the macaques are fit and well for releaseThe following day, they continued the journey by boat to Panaitan Island, escorted by two forest rangers. After three hours in motorboat, the team finally arrived on Panaitan Island. The boat stopped a few metres from the beach because the seafloor is so shallow. The team had to move to a smaller boat called Jukung to get to the island. Boy’s and Aquino’s group were then released into the habituation cage where they would stay for a few days to get to know their surroundings.

The team observed each monkey’s behaviour for three days. Sometimes Api showed stereotypic behaviour when he saw humans nearby so the team stayed as far away as they could while still keeping the macaques in view.

At the location there are also estimated to be three wild macaque groups. One group lives near the camp and the other two live near the habituation cage. The team introduced wild food to the macaques inside the habituation cage such as Portia Tree and Shoe button (Ardisia humilis) and most of them liked it.

The macaques are transported to their new home on Panaitan IslandOn 27 November 2011, the team opened the habituation cage and the macaques were finally set free. They ran away from humans which was a good indication that they are no longer dependent on people, thanks to effective rehabilitation.

Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of IAR, said: “It’s so uplifting to see these macaques living in the wild after spending years in captivity. All credit to our team in Indonesia for successfully rehabilitating animals that were entirely dependent on human beings so that now they can live completely independently in the forest.”

Long-tailed macaques are often underestimated by people: they used to be comic symbols and people would laugh when they saw their pictures; they are also regarded as crop pests and their population is believed to be far too high — but there is no scientific proof that there are large numbers of them.

The long-tailed macaque also has no legal protection in Indonesia and many are still callously traded as pets. No regard is given to the fact that they are sensitive and highly intelligent animals which should be treated with respect and, like Aquino’s and Boy’s groups, should be allowed to live peacefully in the wild as nature intended.