SANGEH, Indonesia (AP) – Deprived of their favorite food source – bananas, peanuts and other gifts brought in by tourists are now put away by the coronavirus – hungry monkeys have raided the homes of villagers in their search on the resort island of Bali for something delicious.
Villagers in Sangeh say that gray long-tailed macaques are exiting a sanctuary about 500 meters (yards) away to roam on their roofs and swoop in, waiting for the right time to snack.
Worried that the sporadic layoffs would turn into an all-out monkey attack on the village, residents are taking fruits, peanuts and other food into the stocky monkey forest to try to pacify the primates.
“We fear the hungry monkeys will become wild and vicious,” said villager Saskara Gustu Alit.
About 600 macaques live in the forest sanctuary, which swing from tall nutmeg trees and leap about the famous Pura Bukit Sari temple, and are considered sacred.
In normal times the protected wilderness area in the southeast of the Indonesian island is popular among local residents for wedding photos as well as international visitors. Relatively few monkeys can easily be persuaded to sit on the shoulder or lap for a peanut or two.
Generally, tourism is the main source of income for Bali’s 4 million residents, which welcomed more than 5 million foreign visitors annually before the pandemic.
The Sangeh Monkey Forest normally receives about 6,000 visitors a month, but as the pandemic spread last year and international travel decreased dramatically, that number dropped to around 500.
Since July, when Indonesia banned all foreign travelers to the island and closed the sanctuary to local residents, none have remained.
Operations Manager Made Mohan said that not only does this mean that no one is bringing in extra food for the monkeys, the sanctuary has also lost out on its entry fee and is running short of money to buy food for them.
Donations from villagers have helped, but they too are feeling financially tight and are giving less gradually, he said.
“This prolonged epidemic is beyond our expectations,” said Med Mohan, “the food for the monkeys has become a problem.”
The cost of food for 200 kg (440 lb) of cassava, the monkeys’ staple food and 10 kg (22 lb) of banana, runs about 850,000 rupees ($60) a day.
The macaque is an omnivore and can eat a wide variety of animals and plants found in the forest, but the Sangeh monkey forest dwellers have had so much contact with humans over the years that they prefer other things.
And they are not afraid to take matters into their own hands, Gustu Alit said.
Monkeys often roam the village and settle on rooftops, sometimes removing tiles and dropping them on the ground. When the villagers make daily religious offerings on their terraces, the monkeys jump down and get away from them.
“A few days ago I attended a traditional ceremony at a temple near the Sangeh forest,” said Gustu Alit. “When I parked my car and took out two plastic bags containing food and flowers as prasad, two monkeys suddenly appeared and grabbed it all and ran very fast into the forest.”
Typically, monkeys interact with visitors throughout the day – stealing sunglasses and water bottles, pulling on clothes, jumping over shoulders – and Gustu Alit believes that more than just being hungry, They are tired.
“That’s why I have urged the villagers here to come to the forest to play with the monkeys and feed them,” he said. “I think they need to interact with humans as often as possible so they don’t go wild.”
Karmini reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writer David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this report.