My pet monkeys will get a second chance in the wild

When you grow up with an ape around the house, you don't think twice when buying a monkey at a Jakarta pet shop.

My family had an orangutan when I was nine years old and by the time I turned 14, we also had a pair of siamang, the tailless black-furred gibbons native to Sumatran, Malaysia, and Thai rainforests.

On the first day that these wild apes arrived at our house, my brother and I were thrilled - my sister and other brother were not as they were not too keen on animals.

We enjoyed the simian company throughout the time they were with us, before our mother eventually donated the apes to the city zoo - after they grew older, stronger and were no longer as cute.

At the time, my uncle also had a siamang as a pet. A neighbour two blocks away had a macaque.

So when I brought home another two primates two-and-a half-years ago – some 30 years after my mother brought home an orangutan and the siamang – a flood of childhood memories rushed in.

I spent 600,000 rupiah (S$77) for a pair of cute long-tailed macaques at Pramuka pet shop centre in East Jakarta.

There were dozens of pet shops in this location, which is like a pet mall selling all kinds of pets.

The innocent primates were kept in a corrugated paper box with several holes to keep air circulating inside.

But the little ones looked so afraid and kept hugging each other.

When the macaques reached home, my two young sons – who were then four-and-a-half and three years old - were thrilled.

They quickly got to love them just as I loved my monkeys some three decades ago.

But earlier this month, I chanced upon on an 8-minute YouTube video with footage by an animal rights groups.

The film bared the unpalatable truth: thousands of baby monkeys were being captured every year from the wild after wounding or killing the mothers.

Many of these young ones were sent to pharmaceutical companies and universities for research. Others ended up at private homes (like ours) as pets.

Worse, some others became topeng monyet – performng street monkeys who had to go through months of cruel training, involving daily torture until they learnt how to stand upright and do other tricks.

I knew what I had to do. I got in touch with a few animal rights groups to see how I could make amends for my wrongdoing.

I have made a decision.

Next month, I shall surrender our macaques to an animal rights group which has a rehabilitation centre in the wild outside Bogor, West Java.

This time around, it’s the monkeys’ turn to be thrilled. Back in the wild.