That’s what it’s about
- Due to the pandemic, Bali hardly has any tourists.
- The monkeys on the island feel this too.
- They are lacking in food and are likely to feel bored too.
- In search of food, they are increasingly moving into residential buildings.
Sangeh macaques are used to humans. Not infrequently they even sit on their shoulders – especially since they know that there is often a banana or a few peanuts as a reward. However, the number of visitors from all over the world has fallen sharply since the beginning of the pandemic. The park in Bali, where the monkeys live, has even been completely closed since July. The consequences are now also felt by the residents of an adjacent village.
The “monkey forest” has always been popular with tourists. And the tourists with the monkeys – because the treats brought by the human day guests were a welcome change from the otherwise monotonous menu for the animals. In the meantime, they are regularly swarming out into the surrounding area in search of a replacement. The “break-ins” in residential buildings are increasing. Offerings in temples or on house terraces are seldom left lying around for long.
In the village of Sangeh, which is only about 500 meters from the reserve of the same name, the monkeys hang around on the roofs of the houses. When the moment seems right to them, they strike. This is still just a nuisance for the residents. Many fear, however, that the animals could soon launch larger “attacks”. “We are afraid that the hungry monkeys will become wild and malicious,” says the villager Saskara Gustu Alit.
To prevent this from happening, the people of Sangeh now sometimes bring fruit, peanuts and other food to where the animals normally are. However, it is questionable whether the sporadic donations will be sufficient. After all, around 600 specimens of gray long-tailed macaques live in the protected forest area that surrounds the Pura Bukit Sari temple complex.
The monkeys of Sangeh are considered sacred – and actually very peaceful. In addition to international visitors, locals also like to come to the park. Many Balinese people take their wedding photos there. The animals are so trusting that with a little food they can easily be made to sit on a lap or shoulder for a moment.
Money for food is running out
Tourism is the most important source of income for the approximately four million inhabitants of Bali. Before the outbreak of the corona virus, more than five million foreign guests came to the Indonesian island every year. The Sangeh Monkey Forest usually had about 6000 visitors per month. When fewer and fewer tourists came to Bali last year due to international travel restrictions, the number of visitors to Sangeh fell to around 500 per month.
In July, the Indonesian government closed the island completely to international holidaymakers. Since then, the “monkey forest” has also been closed to locals. This means that the monkeys living there are not only lacking the delicacies otherwise offered by tourists. The park administration has not been able to sell tickets for weeks. The money is now barely enough to procure enough pet food, says plant manager Made Mohon.
According to Made Mohon, the donations from the area were definitely a help. Because the village is also struggling with economic losses, the residents are giving less and less, he says. “We would never have expected this long-lasting pandemic,” emphasizes the park manager. “Food for monkeys has become a problem.”
She is also attracted to boredom
According to the administration, the cost of pet food is around 850,000 Indonesian rupiah (54 francs) per day. This is enough for 200 kilograms of cassava, the monkey’s staple food, and ten kilograms of bananas, says Made Mohon. Macaques are omnivores and can therefore actually feed on various plants and animals in the Balinese forests. But years of close contact with people seem to have shaped the specimens in Sangeh so much that they prefer other foods.
At the same time, they do not seem to be afraid to take matters into their own hands. “A few days ago I attended a traditional ceremony in a temple near the Sangeh forest,” says the villager Gustu Alit. “When I parked my car and took out two plastic bags with food and flowers as offerings, two monkeys suddenly appeared. They grabbed the whole thing and ran away very quickly into the forest. “