By Indri Hapsari, Education Coordinator
June 27th 2012 education coordinator Indri Hapsari and Mitigation of Macaque Conflict Programme coordinator Ayut Enggeliah Entoh went to the BDN elementary school in Jakarta to give presentations about animal welfare and the facts about monkeys. Education was given in two parts, first part was 1st – 3rd grades and the second one was 4th – 6th grades. The students were pretty enthusiastic but the 1st -3rd grades seem to be particularly interested. They paid a lot of attention to what the team explained and asked the most questions.
The awareness team provided basic knowledge and facts about monkeys, especially the long- and pig-tailed macaques. They also spoke with the students about animal welfare and explained that we should not keep monkeys or other wildlife as pets.
Most students think that monkeys eat bananas and peanuts and that it would be alright to feed monkeys because it means that they care for them.
The public perception of monkeys is completely mistaken and we hope by conducting awareness activities many people will improve their understanding of these animals. And as a result they will not look at Topeng monyet or feed wild monkeys. Hopefully too they will laugh less when they see a picture of a monkey or ape.
Topeng monyet is a traditional entertainment using monkeys doing tricks like riding a motorcycle, shopping and dancing. The problem is how the monkey is made to do these things. The trainer tortures the monkey by beating it or not giving it food if it isn’t obedient. Even, to make them walk on their hind legs only, trainers will tie a rope round their necks and pull the rope up so they are forced to stand upright. Not watching or giving money can help lessen the Topeng monyet activity.
Feeding wild monkeys can contribute to their bad habits. Because they can get food easily, they will not try to look for food again in the wild. They will just beg from humans or even steal it.
Lastly, for some reason if people are shown a picture of a monkey they laugh. We’re not sure about the real reason but maybe because monkeys are creatures that people used as objects to tease, someone or some myth and legends put monkeys as the villains in the story. These things create a negative perception in people’s minds.
To change people’s attitudes is not easy, especially in an elite community where people don’t want to be bothered. One thing we can do is raise awareness among children, and hopefully they will pass the message on to their parents.