Wed, 09 Jul 2003

Thousands of monkeys run wild in Banyumas

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Banyumas, Central Java

Villagers in Wangon subdistrict, Banyumas regency, Central Java, are facing food shortages and crop failures as thousands of hungry monkeys have been raiding their crops and fruit trees in search of food.

The primates, apparently forced to leave their mountain habitat where the forest has been burned amid the dry season, descended upon the village of Cikakak to find secondary crops, palm sugar sap and fruits.

With dozens of hectares of food crops being ravaged by the starving monkeys, local residents are the ones now threatened with hunger. "As no more leaves and fruits are left in their habitat, they have come to attack our crops," said a local farmer on Monday.

The farmer said that village settlements and plantations were also the target of the primates, as they sought fresh water to drink and to wash themselves.

The rampage has caused considerable material losses to the Cikakak farmers.

"However, we don't dare hurt the monkeys because they number in the thousands. We are afraid that they could get fiercer and more violent," said Sastro, 34, another villager.

He told The Jakarta Post that besides eating bananas, corn, cassava and other crops, the monkeys also removed hundreds of palm sugar sap containers tied to the trunks of coconut trees.

To prevent further destruction, the local farmers have had to heighten the guard around crops that are ready to be harvested.

"We have to patrol our plantations around the clock," another villager said.

Gathering near a cemetery in the village, the monkeys would approach anybody walking past and would only leave after the passersby toss them some food.

Such monkey infestations are common during the annual dry season in Cikakak and other villages in Banyumas.

"During the rainy season, we're not worried about them attacking, because they have food in the forest. The monkeys come down to our villages in smaller numbers and do not raid our plantations," Sastro said.