Monkeys on the island of Bali lost the source of their favorite food when the world pandemic began, because tourists became much smaller. Due to constant contact with humans, primates no longer want to look for food in the jungle.
Now hungry animals are attacking the houses of villagers to find something tasty, AP reports.
Residents of the village of Sangeh say that gray long-tailed macaques climb on the roofs of houses and wait for everyone to go to eat something.
People are wary that such raids could turn into attacks by hungry monkeys, so they bring fruit, peanuts and other food into the forest.
“We are afraid that hungry monkeys will become wild and aggressive,” the village inhabitants explain.
Prior to the pandemic, the Sangeh Forest was visited by about 6,000 people a month and fed to animals. Due to the coronavirus, the Indonesian authorities closed the reserve, and now no one is there. As the pandemic spread last year and international travel dropped off dramatically, that number dropped to about 500.
Monkeys can also eat food from the jungle, but they have been in contact with humans for too long, so now they cannot switch to such a diet.
Due to constant contact with humans, primates not only refuse to eat from the forest, but also need company. Sangeha residents are asked to come and spend time with the animals so that they do not go crazy.
Villagers in Sangeh say the gray long-tailed macaques have been venturing out from a sanctuary about 500 meters (yards) away to hang out on their roofs and await the right time to swoop down and snatch a snack.
Worried that the sporadic sorties will escalate into an all-out monkey assault on the village, residents have been taking fruit, peanuts and other food to the Sangeh Monkey Forest to try to placate the primates.
“We are afraid that the hungry monkeys will turn wild and vicious,” villager Saskara Gustu Alit said.
About 600 of the macaques live in the forest sanctuary, swinging from the tall nutmeg trees and leaping about the famous Pura Bukit Sari temple, and are considered sacred.
In normal times the protected jungle area in the southeast of the Indonesian island is popular among local residents for wedding photos, as well as among international visitors. The relatively tame monkeys can be easily coaxed to sit on a shoulder or lap for a peanut or two.
Ordinarily, tourism is the main source of income for Bali’s 4 million residents, who welcomed more than 5 million foreign visitors annually before the pandemic.
Since July, when Indonesia banned all foreign travelers to the island and shut the sanctuary to local residents as well, there has been nobody.
Not only has that meant nobody bringing in extra food for the monkeys, the sanctuary has also lost out on its admission fees and is running low on money to purchase food for them, said operations manager Made Mohon.
The donations from villagers have helped, but they are also feeling the economic pinch and are gradually giving less and less, he said.
“This prolonged pandemic is beyond our expectations,” Made Mohon said, “Food for monkeys has become a problem.”
Food costs run about 850,000 rupiah ($60) a day, Made Mohon said, for 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of cassava, the monkeys’ staple food, and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of bananas. If you buy these items regularly, it is a significant financial burden.
The macaque is an omnivore and can eat a variety of animals and plants found in the jungle, but those in the Sangeh Monkey Forest have had enough contact with humans over the years that they seem to prefer other things.
And they’re not afraid to take matters into their own hands, Gustu Alit said.
Frequently, monkeys wander into the village and sit on roofs, occasionally removing tiles and dropping them to the ground. When villagers put out daily religious offerings of food on their terraces, the monkeys jump down and make off with them.
“A few days ago I attended a traditional ceremony at a temple near the Sangeh forest,” Gustu Alit said. “When I parked my car and took out two plastic bags containing food and flowers as offerings, two monkeys suddenly appeared and grabbed it all and ran into the forest very fast.”
Normally, the monkeys spend all day interacting with visitors – stealing sunglasses and water bottles, pulling at clothes, jumping on shoulders – and Gustu Alit theorizes that more than just being hungry, they’re bored.
“That’s why I have urged villagers here to come to the forest to play with the monkeys and offer them food,” he said. “I think they need to interact with humans as often as possible so that they do not go wild.”
The crab-eating macaque, also known as the long-tailed macaque and referred to as the cynomolgus monkey in laboratories, is a cercopithecine primate native to Southeast Asia. A species of macaque, the crab-eating macaque has a long history alongside humans; it has been alternately seen as an agricultural pest, sacred animal in some temples, and more recently, the subject of medical experiments.
Check how global business prepares for the post-pandemic climate crisis here.