BOYOLALI (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Over the next week, some areas in Boyolali regency, Central Java, may resemble war zones, as hundreds of police and military personnel armed with rifles are deployed with orders to shoot on sight.
The targets, however, will not be desperate drug dealers or merciless terrorists, but monkeys.
Residents and the authorities seem to have lost patience in the face of repeated raids by wild macaques on farms and houses in the past few months.
Havoc has been wreaked on corn and fruit and vegetable crops. Houses have been looted and people attacked.
More than 100 shooters from the army and the police, as well as members of the Association of Indonesian Shooters (Perbakin) have been sent to hunt down the primates.
"This operation is not intended to kill, let alone exterminate the monkeys, but we do aim to secure people's farms and residences," Karanggede Police chief Adjunct Commissioner Margono said, adding that they would use non-lethal rounds to shoot the animals.
The shooters were deployed on Thursday (Aug 3) and are to work there for a week. Their operation will cover at least five villages in Sendang subdistrict, Karanggede.
"Today we combed locations frequently visited by the monkeys. We really hope this operation will be successful, because the money attacks have terrorised the people," Mr Margono said.
Locals tried to get rid of the monkeys by using wooden and bamboo sticks, but the animals kept coming back. They also tried to fence their fields with nets, only to find out that the monkeys damaged the nets.
The monkeys have lost their fear of humans, said Mr Purwanto, from Karanggede.
"The more we try to get rid of them, the more aggressive the monkeys become. They leave but come back minutes later in much bigger numbers," he said.
At least 13 people, mostly children and senior citizens, have fallen victim to monkey attacks.
"The latest victim was Parmo, 82, who was attacked on Tuesday and sustained severe injuries," said Sendang subdistrict head Sukimin.
Mr Sukimin said Mr Parmo was using a stick to try to beat off a troop of monkeys that was approaching his chicken cage but the animals ran amok and fought back furiously. The grandfather received 42 stitches on his arms and chest.
Animal activist Ning Hening criticised the shooting operation and said it would not address the problem.
"A similar approach has been adopted in other regions, but the monkeys keep coming back when they are hungry," Ms Hening said.
Ms Hening suggested the use of wet chicken manure, put along the monkeys' usual routes, as a better way to get rid of monkeys without injuring them.
"Monkeys do not like the smell of chicken manure. They will leave once they smell it. Farmers have applied this approach for ages," Ms Hening said.
Another way is by painting one of the monkeys entirely red and releasing it back to its habitat.
"Other monkeys will run terrified once they see the red-painted monkey, thinking that it does not belong to their troop." Ms Hening said.
"Such traditional ways are more humane than shooting them."
Residents say monkey attacks recur every dry season but this time the monkeys seem to be more aggressive. They blame the situation on damage to the forests on the slopes of Mount Merapi that are the natural habitat of the primates.