The Masked Monkey Village Of Jakarta Would Keep You Wide Awake Tonight

This is not a horror story, neither a ‘Dear David’ continuation. But this is downright creepy and inhuman. Welcome to a slum in the east of Jakarta, popularly known as South Cipinang Besar. Eeverything is usual with garbage dumps, grim streets, and reeking poverty as you walk down the lanes, until, one thing stands out. It’s small, doll-faced and sometimes would even come walking towards you.


Take a better look and you realize it is not a baby or a human child. As it performs a disjointed dance or a squeaky backflip, you wonder if you are somewhere in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Fret not and keep your calm because you have just met Kampung Monyet’s masked monkey beggar.

These monkeys are called topeng monyet which literally mean “masked monkeys”. The origin of these long-tailed macaques dates back to 1980’s when these traveling monkeys used to act to entertain the poor kids of the slums or kampungs. As they started becoming better, people started to use them for fetching money from the tourists.


These monkeys are bred in captivity, often snatched from their mothers while they are breastfeeding, and trained by poachers for servitude. They are trained to walk upright like a human kid, dressed up in baby clothes and a doll face mask over their heads. What is done to make them look cute and baby-like often turns out to be creepy, right out of the ‘Wrong Turn’ series.

During their training under their handlers, their masters teach them several tricks and stunts such as pushing carts. acrobatics, dancing on music, juggling and walking on stilts. Many of these tricks are meant to make them look and behave very close to humans, sometimes making them smoke cigarettes or even pray.


While they are captivated throughout the act by a rope or a chain, these masked monkeys will approach visitors by bowing down or holding out their hands for money.

What appears cute at the act of it has a gruesome training method behind it. The monkeys are taught to walk upright by forcing a ring around their necks that is tethered tightly from both sides to poles.

The monkey is forced to stand up straight due to the pressure, its hands tied tightly at the back. They are kept in this position for hours, to increase the stamina of their legs, enabling them to stand straight. This is not a comfortable position for them naturally but the humans have rarely been nice to their co-species.


Many monkeys that are brought from the wildlife often succumb to this training with health problems, injuries, diseases, stress, and exhaustion. Almost 40% of the monkeys do not live to perform. The monkeys that die out of this horrendous routine are dumped in rivers or in the garbage.


Captivated monkeys are preferred more and hence are costly. The way these monkeys are kept is also scary. They are often kept in dark, dingy, small cages where they cannot even turn around.


The inhuman treatment of the monkeys has caught the attention of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), which has started its campaigns against this and is also pressurizing the government to put a legal end to this practice.

But the masked monkeys of Jakarta are still a common sight in Indonesia, with people not even giving a second thought to them as they pass by.

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