One of Bali’s most popular temples has launched a new activity for visitors. Uluwatu Temple is one of the most famous temples on the island and is popular with tourists who want to admire the stunning view of the Indian Ocean and also interact with wild monkeys.
There are dozens of opportunities to observe wild monkeys in Bali. Tourists can see Bali’s monkeys in places like the Ubud Scared Monkey Forest or even truly wild monkeys out in the West Bali National Park.
There have been hundreds of viral videos over the years showing scenes of monkeys, well, being monkeys.
Everything from biting tourists to stealing phones, ransacking handbags for snacks, and ripping glasses off people’s faces. It’s wild!
@simonboles POV: breakfast on exam day 📍Uluwatu Temple, Bali #baliindonesia #uluwatutemple #uluwatu #monkeysofinstagram #balitravel ♬ original sound – Simon Boles
The monkeys at Uluwatu Temple are particularly notoriously badly behaved.
We say badly; they’re actually incredibly clever and have simply learned how to adapt to get benefit from having so many people around.
The monkeys at Uluwatu Temple, cute as they may be, have a pretty savvy system in place.
They are known to set their sights on a tourist from afar, and when the target is preoccupied with taking photos or looking at the view, the monkey jumps in and nabs their phone, bags, jewelry, hat, glasses, or anything they can get their hands on.
The monkeys have learned that if they steal things belonging to humans that the guards and other tourists will try to bribe them with food.
So it’s simply become a game to them or a smart way to get their primal needs for food met.
@meanderwithmia Bro these monkeys suck, especially at #uluwatutemple #bali #monkeys ♬ original sound – Mia Chloe | travel & living
So, what is the controversial activity now being offered at Uluwatu Temple?
Officials at the temple have launched a new tourist program where visitors can come and directly feed the monkeys.
A move they hope will help improve awareness among tourists, help curb the dangerous behavior of the monkeys and encourage visitors to feel more confident around the animals.
@sebomijang Bali Monkeys at Uluwatu temple can be very aggressive 😮💨 #balitravel #balitravelguide #balitraveltips #baliholidays #uluwatutemple #balimonkeys ♬ Makeba – Jain
The Uluwatu Temple Tourism Management Manager, I Wayan Wijana, exampled to tourists that the new feeding activity will happen every Sunday at 4pm.
Wijana hopes that the activity will help dispel negative perceptions about the monkeys.
Wijana said he and his teams are “Providing free food [and the monkeys] choose selectively. From management, visitors may interact with the monkeys for free and remain under supervision.”
He shared that tourists will be able to “get close to the monkeys and take pictures with the monkeys.”
He noted that there are six different familial groups of monkeys who live in and around Uluwatu Temple.
Some of them are known to be aggressive, while others have proven so far to be more predictable in their behavior.
Wijana said that temple guides will communicate with tourists about which monkeys are safe or not safe to approach.
Wijana said that “We prohibit [tourists] from bringing their own food and giving it without our supervision. So there must be a companion from our team.”
When asked about the overall management and husbandry of the wild monkeys, Wijana said that he and his team are on the ball when it comes to monitoring for rabies.
He said that the 650 known monkeys in the Uluwatu Temple area are under close health observation.
Wijana added, “We routinely carry out vaccines every six months; even if there is an issue of rabies or not, we will still vaccinate.”
Nevertheless, he said, it is of the utmost importance that tourists must remain ‘vigilant and careful’ when in proximity to the primates.
While some people believe that interacting with wild monkeys is fundamentally harmless, since they are now so familiar with humans, the consequences in the long term are hugely risky.
Last month World Animal Protection, the international animal welfare organization, shared the results of their undercover investigation that found there to be no ethical animal tourism experiences in Bali or Lombok; this includes interactions with wild and semi-wild animals.
The organization, along with many others, advises against engaging in any activities that promote close encounters with wildlife.
Close interaction between humans and wildlife, especially primates, is particularly dangerous for both the health of humans and monkeys and can severely disrupt the wildlife’s natural behaviors and social hierarchies.
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