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Monkeys well preserved in Gunungpati to lure more tourists

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Gray, long-tailed monkeys (Macaca ascicularis) are well protected around the Kreo Caves in Gunungpati district, Semarang regency, Central Java, and have become a major attraction for tourists visiting the region.

The preservation effort becomes even more significant these days as nearby Jatibarang Dam is being developed and is projected to add more attractions to the region.

“The monkeys are still the main attraction here. We have a myth about these animals that visitors can learn about at the entrance gate," said Karyadi, 44, of the cave management, on Thursday.

He said that for the last two years, the food supply for the monkeys was not just provided by the regency tourism agency but also by the provincial administration that has been developing the Jatibarang Dam near the natural habitat of the monkeys.

“During the initial construction work of the dam," he said, “the monkeys were stressed because of a
decrease in habitat due to the land acquisition for the development of the dam."

“But, they eventually adapted to the conditions and especially because they also have plentiful supplies of food [provided by the provincial administration]," Karyadi said.

The myth says that the monkeys are there because they were assigned by Sunan Kalijaga, one of the nine prominent figures in the spreading of Islam across Java, to guard the river and cave in the region. Some locals still believe in the myth.

“We are not supposed to harass the monkeys in Kreo Caves. Otherwise, we will be punished. We will experience bad luck," said Kartsiin, 70, of nearby Kandri subdistrict.

He said that people in his subdistrict highly respect the monkeys. When the monkeys come to their villages, they will voluntarily feed them with leftover food.

The dam itself is funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and is expected to start operation by 2014. Apart from accommodating water from flash floods that frequently hit downhill Semarang, the dam is also projected to offer a new tourist attraction.

“We consider the monkeys as a tourist icon. That is why right from the beginning the dam is being developed using a concept of preserving the animals in their own habitat," head of the Jatibarang Dam development unit, Mochamad Mazid, said.

Efforts had been made to protect the monkeys from any possible negative impacts of the dam development. Among the measures are appointing monkey experts from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University’s center for natural resources management studies to monitor the behavior of the monkeys and provide recommendations on what should be done to preserve them.

A 2009 census, according to Mazid, revealed that there were 201 monkeys in the area. “When the construction work is finished by 2013, we will have another census on the monkeys to compare their population before and after the development work," he said.

Other efforts, he added, include acquiring agricultural fields and forests around the dam and along the Kreo River and planting them with monkey food.

“It’s really fun watching the monkeys. They are very funny. Some are even posing like human beings when we take pictures of them," a visitor to the cave, Imas Permasi, said.

Last changed: Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 1:19 pm

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