Officials at Bali’s most famous monkey forests are working hard to ensure that both visitors and wildlife are protected as the island tackles a rabies outbreak.
Teams at Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest and at Sangeh Monkey Forest are working to sterilize and vaccinate the monkeys in order to control the population and protect them against rabies.
The news comes after a pet monkey and pet dog in Tabanan Regency had to be destroyed by the Agriculture and Food Security Office after it got into a fight with a pet dog that was suspected of being rabies positive.
The Head of the Bali Province Agriculture and Food Security Office, I Wayan Sunada, told reporters, “The monkey at Pujung Tabanan was infected by dogs.”
“The resident’s monkey…We have eliminated [it]. So the monkey has a history of fighting with dogs. We have investigated it.”
Following the incident and in light of the rising cases of rabies on the island, officials are working around the clock to roll out mass vaccination programs for dogs on the island, as well as introducing other community protection efforts.
At Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest and at the Sangeh Monkey Forest, this means keeping dogs completely off-site.
Sunada said that vaccination efforts are underway at the monkey forests popular with tourists, noting that it’s no easy feat.
He explained, “Our target is pet monkeys kept by residents. What we vaccinate are warm-blooded animals such as dogs, monkeys, and cats.”
“Those in the Monkey Forest or Sangeh are difficult, so we urge residents not to let dogs get close to monkeys. None of our monkeys in the Monkey Forest or Sangeh have been exposed to rabies.”
The General Manager for Ubud Monkey Forest, Nyoman Sutarjana, confirmed that he and his teams are working to ensure stray and community-owned dogs do not wander into the area.
This, he says, is to avoid the two species meeting and transmitting the virus through bites.
Sutarjana confirmed that there are around 1,000 monkeys in Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest and that mass vaccination against rabies is part of the site’s management plan.
He told reporters we carry out the sterilization program with Udayana University; we will [also] carry out rabies vaccination of monkeys immediately.”
Mass anti-rabies vaccination programs are underway throughout Bali, including in Ubud, for pet, stray, and community-owned dogs.
Leaders from Sangeh Monkey Forest are ensuring that dogs are not entering the area and closely monitoring the health and behavior of their resident macaques.
While Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest and the Sangeh Monkey Forest are popular tourist destinations, visitors must remember that the monkeys though used to humans, remain wild and should be observed at a safe distance as explained in the visiting guidelines.
The island is showing a united front against keeping communities and animals safe after a five-year-old girl died tragically died after contracting rabies in mid-June. Bali’s Governor Koster has committed to eliminating the virus in the province as soon as possible.
In a statement issued earlier this month, Governor Koster announced, “We are aiming to achieve zero deaths due to rabies in Bali by 2024 and zero rabies cases in both humans and animals by 2028.”
The island is receiving support from the Government of Australia, which has sent 200,000 rabies vaccinations to support the campaign.
Tourists are advised to be familiar with rabies protection protocols when traveling.
Detailed information can be found on the World Health Organization website, and post-exposure prophylaxis treatment is available for anyone in Bali suspected of being bitten by an animal with rabies.
News that monkey forest managers and community leaders are working to protect both people and wildlife is of course welcomed by many.
But updates come just weeks after the international animal welfare organization, World Animal Protection, issued a damning report about the state of animal tourism operations on the island.
World Animal Protection conducted an undercover investigation and discovered there to be no ethical animal tourism facilities in Bali and Lombok.
The investigation covered animal entertainment facilities as well as wild spaces.
The report can be read in full on the organization’s website, but the concluding statements revealed, “The findings of our report indicate that currently, there is no responsible way for tourists to see wildlife in Bali and Lombok.”
“Even opportunities to see free-ranging wildlife, such as macaques and dolphins, are not currently responsibly managed and should be avoided.”
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