By Lita Aruperes
A penchant for the taste of the flesh of the yaki (crested black macaque), among the people of North Sulawesi is pushing the protected primate toward extinction.
Steven Ishak, a resident of Amurang, South Minahasa regency, said he liked eating the meat of the crested black macaque, especially as it was easily found on farmland.
However, Ishak said he was unaware that the animal was protected.
“Once, I went to some farmland and found several yaki, but I didn’t know the yaki was protected,” he said.
The small monkey is protected under Law No. 5/1990 on the conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem.
The population of the crested black macaque is between 4,000 and 5,000 in the province. Of the total number, about 2,000 of them can be found in Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve in Bitung, North Sulawesi. The primate is critically endangered, with its main predator being man.
A primate expert at Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, Saroyo Sumarto, said the macaque played a crucial role in forest preservation because the pink-rumped and
short rudimentary tailed monkey helped distribute the seeds of plants in the forest.
“The yaki helps regulate the equilibrium of the forest ecosystem, which is beneficial to humans. However, humans have become the main predator of the animal,” Sumarto said recently.
He added that the monkey’s reproduction rate had drastically dropped due to illegal logging and encroachment of their natural habitat. A female macaque can give birth to a baby every 18 months at the most.
“Its biggest threat is poaching for its meat, or they are kept as pets,” said Sumarto.
He added that rampant macaque poaching was because residents ate its meat, especially on holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Eve.
The global population of the crested black macaque, according to Sumarto, has declined by more than 80 percent over the past 40 years. The primate, which is active during the day, has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Separately, Synergy Pacific Institute director Noldy Tuerah said the crested black macaque was an icon of North Sulawesi because it could be found only in the province. The crested black macaque is one of the attractions in ecotourism and an essential object of science.
“Don’t let the North Sulawesi icon become extinct, especially as a result of human activity,” said Noldy.
The killing of crested black macaque in North Sulawesi caused a stir on the Internet when a lecturer of a well-known university in the province uploaded photos of crested black macaque on his Facebook page at the end of last year.
The lecturer was pictured holding two dead crested black macaque. Consequently, it led to charges of violating Law No. 5/1990. The case is still being investigated by the North Sulawesi Police.
Besides North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi also recorded that widespread mining operations and deforestation were endangering Tonkean macaque.
In Central Sulawesi, the monkeys are found in the forests between North Palu and Tana Toraja, and south of Lore Lindu National Park, which covers the eastern part of the peninsula.