The paved road in Labota Village, Bahodopi District, Morowali Regency, Central Sulawesi, started to become quiet last May. The road is usually busy with workers in the nickel industrial area, PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP). Not far from there, in a small forest left, from a distance you can see tree branches moving.
One monkey with a dominant black face peeking out from behind the leaves of the tree canopy. The snout is relatively long. From the height of the tree, his two eyeballs watched the road and piles of trash on the roadside. The monkey suddenly disappeared from the grove of the tree.
After a few minutes, several adult monkeys with short tails appeared sitting side by side from behind the tin fence. Several adult males had a sad fate, their right leg was stumped.
Several teenage monkeys were seen following. They walked to and fro on the tin fence, while observing the piles of garbage along the shoulder of the road.
Not long after, the mother monkey and her child joined the herd that scavenged the trash.
Not far from them , there is a billboard on the zinc fence informing a brief scientific explanation of the mammalian primate of the Macaca tonkeana type , locally known as boti.
According to the IUCN, boti are only found in rainforests with moderate altitudes from sea level to 2,000 meters above sea level (masl). Boti population densities range up to five individuals per one square kilometer.
Herni, a resident of Labota Village, said that boti began to be seen around the settlement since 2021, when IMIP expanded development, leaving only a small forest.
Boti comes out of the forest to the road only to look for leftover food from household waste that is scattered on the roadside. Occasionally, Herni feeds the monkeys because she feels sorry for seeing them scavenging trash in the middle of a habitat that is surrounded by the nickel industry and settlements.
Sure enough, for several hours I monitored the activities of the boti group, there were residents who came to give food – threw food across the road, right around several boti which were rummaging through the trash.
The boti’s survival in this narrow forest apparently received attention from the Bahodopi Environmental Observer Community (PLB) and several other youth communities, who joined themselves in an association called “Friends of Macaca.” Their activities are facilitated by IMIP’s social responsibility (CSR) funds.
The community together provides food in the form of various types of fruit on a regular basis twice within a span of one week. This routine activity has been since mid-2022.
The PLB recorded that around 20 boti belonged to a group trapped in a dozen hectares of narrow forest which still has the status of a Lin use area (APL).
Apart from providing food, Sahabat Macaca is intensely educating residents not to feed boti that roam around looking for food in piles of garbage.
They also monitor reach – residents who are caught trapping boti and then selling their game online.
PLB tried to plant various banana, rambutan, mango and coffee trees as long-term food crops. These productive plants are to support boti’s food needs, amid the crush of the nickel industry and the surge in population growth – IMIP workers.
The PLB also wrote to the Central Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), asking the BKSDA to evacuate the boti from the Labota village forest.
“No response,” said Nova.
Mongabay tried to confirm with the Central Sulawesi BKSDA, but did not receive an answer.
Gifvents Lasimpo, Director of the Kompas Concern Forest Foundation (Komiu) said deforestation in Morowali occurred through a ‘mining scheme’.
In four years, the area of protected forest in Bahodopi has decreased from 10,820.43 hectares in 2019 to 10,378.73 hectares in 2022.
BPS Morowali noted that the population in Bahodopi District has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic, from 7,754 people in 2019 to 50,171 people in 2022.
Gifvents questioned IMIP’s commitment to protecting biodiversity, considering that boti is one of Sulawesi’s ‘key’ species. Supposedly, the company’s RKAB contains the biodiversity in Bahadopi that makes up its forest ecosystem.
Herlan Kuart, IMIP’s CSR department, said he didn’t understand that boti would suddenly appear in 2021. “We are totally blind when it comes to endemic animals.”
Herlan is not sure that the remaining narrow forest can become a habitat for boti, because the size of the trees is relatively small. IMIP can only hope that the community will help the remaining forest as a habitat for boti.
The company must be responsible
Jatna Supriatna, a leading primatologist in Indonesia, said that there must be social and corporate environmental responsibility.
“Should be moved to a wider forest. It’s somewhere where food and habitat are sufficient. Even though later the macaca is fed and so on, it won’t survive either. Because it will disturb the community and so on.”
He was saddened to hear the behavior of a group of macacas descending to the settlement to eat trash. This behavior violates the physiology of monkey biology.
Jatna is worried that if macaca coexist with human settlements, it will spread rabies, zoonoses and other diseases to the monkeys.
The remaining forest covering an area of dozens of hectares which is the habitat for boti in Labota, is considered too narrow to support the range of this primate. One macaca group needs 40 hectares of forest as a natural habitat.
In his research, Deforestation on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and the loss of primate habitat, he stated that mining is a real, ongoing threat to primates and their habitat. Mentioned as in Central Sulawesi, there are large mining operations, especially nickel, IMIP, established with Chinese investment, became the center of the nickel industry from upstream to downstream; from mining to smelting and final products for export to China.
Esti, education supervisor at the Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center (PPST) in North Sulawesi, thinks that nickel mining or the nickel processing industry is very disturbing to the habitat of boti in the remaining natural forests.
PPST identified that the narrowing of the forest area for macaque habitat has triggered an increase in hunting for this animal, even though the public has been educated not to hunt it.
“Like it or not, there has to be help from the government, to create a macaca protection area that is far from the community.”
In the late afternoon, the going back and forth of IMIP workers who wanted to change work shifts increased on Jalan Labota. Occasionally four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles can be seen crossing the Trans-Sulawesi route, pulling over to the shoulder of the road, approaching a herd of monkeys scavenging garbage.
It is not uncommon for people to throw food at the herd of boats. “We also feel sorry to see what they want to eat.”