Indonesia: Forces Gather on the Slopes of Javan Volcano to Take on Monkey Raiders

Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 5 Jun 14;

Klaten, Central Java. Klaten’s Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BPBD, and villagers around Mount Merapi will join forces this weekend to search for thousands of long-tailed macaques living nearby and drive them back to the forests of the volcano’s upper slopes.

Klaten BPBD head Sri Winoto said the agency could not think of another solution to the increasing effect of monkey raids on farmer’s crops other than forcing them back into their old habitat.

Traditional tools including wooden sticks and firecracker will be used to frighten the monkeys away instead of slaying them with guns or poison.

“Despite their failed harvest as a result of the monkey raids, we warned all villagers not to injure or kill the animals. What we will do is drive them back to their home in the forest,” he said.

Monkey raids have become a serious problem since 2010. Pyroclastic flows of hot ash from the volcano’s massive eruption that year ruined the primates’ habitat as the surrounding vegetation and so the monkey food supply was destroyed.

Since then, hordes of monkeys have moved lower down the slopes and into human habitation in search of food, such as fruits, bulbs and vegetables.

Although Merapi’s forest is now revitalized, the monkeys have not returned to their habitat and now prefer to live around the villages in Mount Merapi National Park. They have settled and reproduced in the forests on the edges of the villages of Kendalsari, Balerante, Tegalmulyo, Sidorejo, Panggang and Talun.

“Around 25 hectares of farmland in Kendalsari was invaded by monkeys, with nothing left in the farms except chilies that are too spicy for the monkeys to eat,” Kendalsari village chief Supadi said.

Farmers are worried about their crop yields, which have been increasingly hit as macaque populations have grown. Supadi said villagers had tried many ways to scare the monkeys off as they approached farms, but there were just too many of them.

“They always come in many groups and the number continues to increase. We avoid killing the animal as it is against the law on conservation, even [though] we have no solution,” Supadi said.

For the indigenous people of the mountain’s slopes, monkey raids are commonly viewed as a sign of rising volcanic activity. But the volcano is now residing at normal status after its alert level was lowered last month.