The first week of May is the coolest time of the year. Seven days every year are dedicated to celebrate the diversity of the world through the many species of macaque and to reach many more people to raise awareness about the threats they face. There are 23 macaques species around the world, Indonesia has 11 and 7 of them can be found on the island of Sulawesi including Macaca nigra (yaki). Sulawesi is very special to have such macaque diversity, yet sadly most of them are threatened with extinction. Selamatkan Yaki has been joining this amazing event since it was first initiated by our friends at Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation in 2016. This year we coordinated an amazing effort with partners and government with activities ranging from dancing with the heart-shaped bottom, to yaki rescue missions from island to island.
The city of Bitung is such an important area for biodiversity of North Sulawesi where the amazing forest of Tangkoko is located, with exposure of conservation outreach especially about the yaki since our Yaki Pride Campaign entered this area in 2015. The great support from the local government proves the success of our strategy to support role models within the campaign area as an extended hand to carry forward conservation efforts.
Alongside famous rock band SLANK and our youth ambassadors we have been blessed to be supported by Mrs Khouni Lomban Rawung, first lady of Bitung city as Yaki Ambassador Indonesia, adding another woman of power to the list of yaki savers. Her genuine passion about the environment, hard work and influence has been a boost to the goal to reach as many people as possible about how special the macaque is and the importance to save them from extinction. As Yaki Ambassador Indonesia, she promotes three key messages about the macaques, that they are: Endemic to North Sulawesi, Critically Endangered and Protected by Indonesian Law. Just before the celebration of International Macaque Week, a local farmer who was exposed to the conservation messages approached her and reported an illegal pet macaque in Lembeh Island and was happy to arrange a hand over. With great coordination between the government of Bitung, BKSDA North Sulawesi (Forestry) and our partners Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre, Mrs Khouni managed to bring us all together on a rescue mission.
Friday the 4th saw a boat full of conservationists – the yaki savers – excited to be crossing for the first time to Lembeh strait to pick up a juvenile male macaque that had been illegally kept as a pet. The sun shined perfectly on the surface of the sea, bringing hope for yaki conservation efforts. The journey by boat was followed by crossing the hilly lands of Lembeh island adding to the adventurous vibe of the day. The team arrived in the location surrounded by coconut trees, and right next to the road there was the little macaque chained to a tree. Mixed feelings were of sadness to see him taken from the wild but also positive hope that he is going to be healthier and happier in the rehabilitation centre. Mrs Khouni kindly led the day by showing appreciation to the illegal pet owner of the awareness and willing to hand over the macaque and the three essential yaki conservation messages were mentioned, part of educating the representatives of local people who were there. The rescue team of Tasikoki handled the macaque professionally, managed to unchain him from the tree and very careful moved him to the transport cage. An important message was also shared by Mr Yakub Ambugau, the new head of SKW 1 – BKSDA North Sulawesi that any hand over of wildlife will be proceed without law enforcement so local people do not have to be afraid of report and give up the illegal ownership of wildlife. Adding to these informative speeches, Mr Sadat Sabahari – head of Environmental Department of Bitung City showed support and willingness to collaborate for forest assessment and improvement to avoid the conflict between wildlife and local people. A heartwarming afternoon during sunset time crossing Lembeh strait back to the mainland of Bitung, on the boat the little macaque was seen checked around his surroundings.
One down, four to go! It was certainly not the end of the day, and the team were to continue another hour drive to a village called Resettlement – Likupang for a very special long time call for a female yaki named Nona. Nona had appeared in National Geographic Magazine in March 2017 but had previously disappeared from the original reported location. Now she was finally taken in by the Tasikoki rescue team, after great coordination with award winning wildlife photographer Stefano Unterthiner for whom Nona was very close to his heart, with a striking portrait which for Stefano encapsulated the pet trade in one poignant image.
The SY team ended the day by sharing an important message to remind people that it is more important to avoid taking wildlife from the wild for pets rather than eventually giving them up to the rehabilitation centre. We hope the message can spread to many people. High fives all around to celebrate such amazing collaboration!
In addition to this, on Saturday three more individual macaques were rescued from Poopo village in South Minahasa, where friendly locals were looking after the macaques as their legs healed after they became trapped in snares set for forest pigs. Tasikoki coordinated with Harry and Yunita who were doing social fieldwork at the time to help the hand over of an adult male, adult female and her bouncy little juvenile. The owners were already well informed about the importance of not keeping wild animals as pets, but were very happy to learn more and also help our efforts to inform their neighbours of the importance of yaki conservation.
Finally, the week’s activities came to a climax with an amazing gathering on the Saturday in Bitung for a special yaki themed version of the regular car free day in the centre of the city. With dancing, education stalls, conservation speeches and various other activities, this was a positive and lively event full of hope. This and all the macaque day activities highlighted the wonderful collaboration here in North Sulawesi, and the amazing progress toward creating a culture of care for the unique wildlife here.