National Geographic : 2017 Mar
102 national geographic • march 2017 feet were rats and bats (the latter’s wings in a pile like leather scraps, also for sale), plus cut-up pigs and monkeys, their faces intact. Nofi Raranta, 37, the town’s main clove dealer, is also the top hunter, employing about a hundred men who comb the surrounding forests for quar- ry. Raranta greeted me from the porch of his new- ly built house a short walk from the market, then led me into a storage room where, from a large freezer, he pulled out the top third of a crested black macaque and propped it on a stool for my inspection. He told me that his family sells about 15 macaques a week, a quarter of them yaki. What if, I asked, you took every crested black macaque from the wild? Raranta allowed that hunters now have to go farther to find the mon- keys. “I’m a businessman,” he said. “ We also have cloves. And there are always more rats, pigs, bats. If one animal is gone, we just look for others.” But Indonesian law protects the endangered macaques. Does he worry about getting caught with them? “Just a little. The police,” Raranta said with a half smile, “they come sit and eat with us!” “Indonesia has had an extensive legal system in place,” Hilser said, “but that means nothing if it isn’t enforced.” And even if laws are followed, jail time for illegal hunting is rare. “Nofi might only receive a fine,” Purser said. “So there’s little incentive to stop what they’re doing.” Weak en- forcement, he said, can be as bad for the species as the direct threats to their survival. to counter the many threats, Selamatkan Yaki and the education arms of Tasikoki and the Macaca Nigra Project cooperate to try to change hearts and minds about macaques. “It’s challenging to generate empathy for M. nigra,” Purser said, “because alive they’re garden pests, and dead they’re food”— or cash. “First we need police working with us rather than looking away.” As for getting the support of politicians, com- peting interests often mean that the macaques lose out. “It’s a trade-off,” Akshari Masikki, an official at the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, told me about land-use de- cisions. “We can’t just decide things from an ecological perspective,” he explained. “There who says he spends a lot of time “trying to get law enforcement to do their jobs,” attends most raids and rescues. They can be contentious: Some- times animals are killed rather than handed over. Tasikoki has some 70 crested black macaques housed together in large, forested enclosures to let them establish hierarchies. “It can be a blood- bath,” but that’s natural, Purser said. “ The goal is always to put animals back in the wild, but we can’t just throw [a lone monkey] anywhere: good- bye, good luck.” The risk is that the animals will get killed by territorial males “or will come out of the forest because they don’t know what to do.” Group releases aim to prevent such losses. Some farmers trap macaques on purpose to keep the monkeys from raiding crops. Monkeys also get caught in traps set for pigs, birds, or rats, which can mean quick cash for a trapper. “My staff has counted [up to] a hundred traps just within a small area inside the reserve boundar- ies,” Engelhardt said. “Unfortunately,” she added, “macaques that escape traps may lose a limb to loss of circulation.” The local pet trade thrives on captured or or- phaned baby macaques—often malnourished and kept in tight quarters. But the bigger threat is that people in Sulawesi have been eating ma- caque meat for centuries. Today it goes for about two dollars a pound (an adult macaque weighs 18 to 23 pounds), and demand spikes at holidays. The town of Tompasobaru, a six-hour drive from Tangkoko, is known for the fragrant cloves that carpet the front yards of homes, drying on tarps in the sun. But in the town’s open market, the air hung heavy with the metallic smell of the butch- er’s wares. On sale next to dried fish and chicken Raranta led me into a storage room where, from a large freezer, he pulled out the top third of a crested black macaque and propped it on a stool for my inspection.