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Killing of black macaques in Indonesia sparks debate over hunting

  • Advocates for the critically endangered species fear that if a hunter who posted to Facebook about killing them is not prosecuted, they will continue to be targeted.
  • Macaques are considered a delicacy in Sulawesi, where the local Minahasan people have a reputation for eating just about anything that moves.
  • The hunter defended himself on his Facebook page, arguing that he only killed a few of the animals, while forest concessionaires that destroy their habitats are responsible for the deaths of far more.

Eight months after a lecturer at an Indonesian university posted to Facebook about hunting and killing a pair of black macaques for his Christmas dinner, advocates for the critically endangered primates are wondering why the case, which was reported to the police, has yet to be processed.

They fear that if the man, Devy Sondakh, is not prosecuted, hunters will continue to target the Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra), whose population has declined dramatically due to habitat loss and the bushmeat trade. The creature is considered a delicacy on the predominantly Christian island of Sulawesi, where the local Minahasan people have a reputation for eating just about anything that moves.

The species is the same one that caught the limelight last year when a female took the famous “monkey selfies” that became the center of a copyright dispute.

Black macaque. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Yunita Siwi of the Save the Yaki Foundation – “yaki” is what the macaques are called in Indonesian – said the delay indicates a lack of commitment by the police to crack down on wildlife crime.

Stephan Milyoski Lentey of the Macaca Nigra Project, which studies the creature out of a research station in North Sulawesi province, also urged the authorities to act.

“If nothing happens with the case, there is a chance that hunting of the yaki will increase, because the perpetrator has a doctorate in law,” Stephan said. “Don’t forget this case.”

A spokesman for the North Sulawesi Police told Mongabay-Indonesia the case would be processed under the 1990 Conservation Law.

The photo Devy Sondakh posted to Facebook. The man is a lecturer in philosophy and logic at Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, a major city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Devy’s photo has been widely circulated online, drawing condemnation but also sparking a debate about traditional hunting practices and wildlife consumption. Devy has defended himself, responding in the comments of the photo to critics who accuse him of animal cruelty.

In one post, Devy argued that killing a monkey is no different from killing a cow or a pig. He also pointed out that the animals are often seen as pests by farmers who try to keep them away from their crops.

He argued that he only shot a few of the creatures, while habitat destruction from logging, plantation and mining operations is responsible for the deaths of far more.

“If I kill three animals and they kill a thousand, I’m the one who is blamed,” he wrote. “It’s not fair.”

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