JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - The last wildlife reserve left in Indonesia’s vast, traffic-choked capital is under threat from a growing tide of rubbish and angry local residents who complain that it harbors thieving monkeys.
Indonesia’s surging economy and fast-growing population is driving a building boom in Jakarta, which suffers from a legacy of poor urban design and weak enforcement of planning laws.
But at the northern edge of the chaos lies a swathe of jungle and mangroves, alive with the call of birds and shriek of monkeys -- Muara Angke Wildlife reserve.
The last such reserve in Jakarta, Muara Angke’s 25 hectares are a popular destination for people eager to escape the crowded streets and view the 95 Long-tailed Macaques that live there.
It also is home to 91 different bird species, several of which are endangered, as well as beavers, monitor lizards, amphibians and fish. In addition, it is a stopover for migratory birds from Russia and Australia.
But this oasis may not survive for much longer.
The monkeys, which visitors to the reserve are not allowed to feed, bear part of the blame.
Residents of a luxury residential complex in nearby Pantai Indah Kapuk have asked the managers of the reserve to eradicate the monkeys, which they say steal food and bite people.
The demand has outraged those who work with the reserve.
“How can we ban monkeys? This is a wildlife area,” said Muhammad Rifa‘i, an official at Balai Mangrove Kapuk Muara, an NGO under the Muara Angke management.
“Monkeys and some animals have lived here for many years.”
Rifa‘i said that wild food in the reserve, which is beset by pollution, was growing increasingly difficult for the monkeys to find. Some people who live in the nearby residential area also feed the animals, encouraging them to come back looking for more.
Once a vast, forested area on Jakarta’s north coast, the Pantai Indah Kapuk district is now made up of luxury estates, golf courses and offices, a boom driven by its proximity to Indonesia’s biggest international airport and trading harbour.
This growth may ultimately doom the reserve, which now is disturbed by the sound of traffic and industrial activity.
Founded in the 1930s under the colonial Dutch government, it stretched across 1,344 hectares in 1960 but has now dwindled to its meager 25 hectares, with parcels of land sliced off for development.
Pollution has also hit it hard, killing mangroves and destroying habitat. The Angke river that runs through it -- a source of food and water for the animals -- is now badly polluted with rubbish and boat fuel.
This pollution, along with illegal hunting and starvation, has helped take the monkey population down by more than 30 percent in just four years.
“It’s difficult to keep the monkeys here,” said Bambang, the coordinator of Balai Mangrove Kapuk Muara, who like many Indonesians only uses one name.
“Now there are only 95 left from 150 in 2006.”
Additional reporting by Chandni Vatvani; Editing by Elaine Lies and Sunanda Creagh