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Monday, March 17, 2008

A Monkey Called Mandy

Monkeys are aplenty here in and around Taman TAR. There're altogether 4 species of monkeys that live within this natural forest reserve - long tail & pig-tail macaques, silver leaf and duskies. But the former 2 species have gained both in numbers and prominence over the years. Unfortunately, they've become more of a nuisance than a novelty.

About a year ago, one small female monkey was found loitering within the grounds of Tamarind Springs. Being unusually friendly, she's one monkey that'd rather be hanging out with the humans than go play with her pack in the jungle. She was way too docile to not raise suspicion that perhaps she had been someone's pet. Soon we found out she indeed did not belong to any pack hence no friends to play with. She’d hang around and watch our workers build Il Tempio all day long, and at times demand a hand to take her out for a walk.

I love watching this little monkey sitting on the railing and dozing off as if consumed by boredom while watching our people go about with their monotonous hammering and sawing. That I thought is SO human... and so funny – reminds me of that typical scene of an old man dozing off in front of the TV.
Day in day out, she’d stick around and never leaves! She showed no signs of finding her own food in the jungle either. Soon, it became more and more evident that she wasn't your 'normal' monkey because when we started offering her fruits, but she preferred curry and rice instead.

Later, we were told that her name's Mandy. Learnt that her owner who apparently lives in this neighborhood had decided to set her free. Right here at Tamarind Springs. I thought, well of course, where could possibly be a more convenient 'dumping ground'?

Thank god we love animals! Sure, we welcomed her with open arms. But this – dumping an animal away – is SO WRONG. So, then what do we do now? It’s totally against our conscience to turn a blind eye… but now suddenly it became our responsibility to look after this domesticated pig-tail macaque that we cannot and shouldn't keep yet can never return to the wild! Great.

So, we kept her within the restaurant’s compound, allowed her to roam about freely while we waited it out for a couple of weeks to see if we can find a solution for Mandy. Before long, hell broke loose.

Mandy decided to get a little too close for comfort. Even destructive at times. She sat with customers and picked on their lunch, chewed on the chopstick holders, tumbled the oil lamps that decorate the restaurant, threw phones into the pond, tore up staff's punch cards, vandalized the kitchen, stole a whole chicken from the fridge and then dragged it all the way up to the roof to play with it, and then just last week, a lamb shank. The chefs are pissed…. but Mandy has never ever shown signs of aggression though.

Well, she left us no choice but to tie her up. Mandy now wears a harness, allowing us to tie and release her whenever necessary. I don't believe in restraining animals at all because wild animals especially, should be left in the wild. But Mandy is wild alright, wild like a naughty kid!

The other pig-tail clans in the jungle don't welcome her into their packs. Instead they attack her. She became so fearful of the jungle as it is obviously not a safe haven. Mandy seeks refuge at Tamarind Springs... but poor Mandy, isn’t it so sad and unfair that she doesn’t belong to any place…

It's very heart-breaking to see this happening and I'm really really outraged that we're put in this Catch 22 situation - having to finish what some ignorant and selfish f***ker started, being squashed in between 'the best' & 'the right' way, and forced to restrain Mandy too. And if we fail to figure a solution, as her ‘new owner’ we’re responsible in the decision if Mandy should be put to sleep. Now even if it's the right thing, and probably, the best... I just CANNOT do it. It's not fair. Why me??!!

The thought of putting Mandy to sleep is as good as stir-frying my heart in a hot pan. Even if killing the animal IS the right thing to do, I'll be forever damaged. All of our restaurant staff will feel the same. Especially Pupati, our cleaner who looks after Mandy, she will be devastated. No, I won’t be a part of that. Poor Mandy… who are we, to decide for her if she should live or die?
This is Pupati. She brings Mandy cut fruits and left over rice from our kitchen since she doesn't know how to find her own food.

People abduct monkeys from the wild because they think monkeys make cool pets or believe they're simply doing nature a favor. But most people lose interest very quickly because the reality is, monkey often turns out to be 'not so cute afterall', and then the owner decides to just get rid of it. Don't forget monkeys poo and pee too, in fact they're like us (yes even their poo smells like ours), they portray unpredictable and sometimes aggressive behaviors that we can't stop or control and also,

monkeys carry diseases that are transmittable to human beings.
So, monkeys do not make good, tame pets.

I’m sure those of you who live in neighborhoods like Taman TAR, Ukay Heights and Damansara Heights have had monkeys invade your home. This problem has gotten pretty out of hand here in Ampang... because of a few factors. One is the excessive housing developments on the hillsides which had driven hundreds, maybe thousands of monkeys out of their habitats, so they're out and about looking for a place to be. The best way to deal with this is to relocate them to some place else where it's safe with plenty of food. But who's doing it? And who does it humanely?

Some years ago, one of the acting departments in the government tried to resolved this problem in Ukay Heights by, guess what, shooting monkeys down. Cheaper (bullets cheaper than injections?), less hassle (trapping and relocating takes time and effort) and quicker (just shoot to kill). The outcome was, not only did they not succeed in shooting the monkeys dead, they left so many mutilated. I still see today, some long-tail macaques had amazingly survived but without an arm or a leg, and either without half a face or with a blown-up mouth.

Residents saw how heartless this was, then decided to stop feeding the monkeys. Because it turned out to be a more humane solution. Incessant feeding will only allow these monkeys to thrive on and multiply.

It made good sense, didn't it? We shall not make more monkeys to have them killed.

Some may feel sorry and believe it's a kind thing to do - making merits for eliminating hunger. Sure it's a kind and compassionate gesture alright, but it's what we call 'misplaced kindness'. See, we could be doing more harm than good. It’s a dilemma, I know. I feel the same sorry feeling for hungry stray dogs and cats too and have this urge to stop their suffering. But if we feed them, we will make more of them homeless and hungry...

How kind is it then, feeding them to keep them alive only to have them killed in the end?

Since no one has a sound solution until today, then maybe it's probably best for the animals when left to nature's own cause. Let the strongest, most adaptable ones survive. Human intervention always disrupts the balance of nature. In all sense of the word, disasterous.

A friend living in Mont Kiara phoned recently, feeling terribly disgusted that monkeys were left to die in these spherical traps the officials had set up after residents complained about encroachment. Obviously no one came around to monitor and relocate the monkeys! Now residents don't even want the traps around anymore. But the problem with monkeys persists and nobody can help.

I heard Janda Baik is the relocation ground. Most monkeys from the city are sent there. For how long would this solution hold up though...? Then there's the big hoo-ha about exporting monkeys for lab tests overseas. It came across looking like the government was trying to benefit from it. So people detested the intention behind it and labeled it 'a cruel intention' .
So what do we do, what should we do?

Well, like my friend Ellen suggests, if relocation isn't possible then trapping them humanely and putting them down with an injection will ensure a painless ending.

Sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind.

I think we'll have Mandy evacuated - out of KL to Tioman - to live at our resort amidst vast jungle space with lots of food, love & affection from our staff. She’ll be a lot happier there I’m sure. I hope...



2 comments:

Min said...

I jog regularly at the hill where Tamarind Springs is. I have seen a few regular visitors who bring food for the monkeys there, which I feel is so wrong. The monkeys will grow to be dependent on these handouts and stop looking for food themselves. Moreover, some visitors are giving the monkeys the wrong food like groundnuts and Twisties. Wrappers are then thrown by the side of the hill. Hmmph! So geram!

Mama Min

Maple Loo said...

Hello Min,
Yeah, it's horrible isn't it... it's actually MPAJ's job to stop this clean up of course but because the municipal don't bother monitoring the area and seriously making this an offense where people get fined from feeding these monkeys, I don't think anyone cares! The monkeys are now totally dependant on the handouts by now and the garbage situation is atrocious but no one's doing anything about this.