Ubud’s Monkey Forest: an accident waiting to happen

I am scared of monkeys, so I thought I would visit a sacred forest full of the little macaques. Crazy, eh?

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monkforest

The Ubud Monkey Forest is a famous tourist attraction/sanctuary in Ubud, Bali, and is often visited by over 10,000 people each month. The forest contains around 600 monkeys, with four groups each occupying different territories within the 27-acre sanctuary. As well as the many monkeys, there are some amazing stone carvings and bridges and ponds here within the vines that make it look like a real jungle.

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The forest has been populated by monkeys in greater numbers than an environment undisturbed by humans would allow for a number of years, with the population density now higher than ever. The visitor will notice the interesting phenomenon of numerous obese monkeys, a testament to the almost unbounded food supply the huge number of tourists entering in and near the forest provide.

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The problem with the Monkey Forest as a tourist attraction is that the monkeys will invariably approach human visitors in a large group and then grab any bags containing food. If the demanded food is not provided quickly enough, one or more of the monkeys will certainly bite the human. Numerous bites occur because humans are not quick enough in producing a desired food item. Given that dogs are not allowed inside, the monkeys have none of the normal environmental competitors to keep them in check – and they have also clearly lost the fear of humans that they would have in the wild.

Photo: Stripes.com
Photo: Stripes.com

Monkey bites are a very serious medical event given the variety of viruses monkeys carry that can be transferred to humans. For example,Β Rabies is very prevalent in macaques, and should be assumed to be very prevalent in the populations in Ubud Monkey Forest, and frequently causes death in humans (vaccinations before you travel are certainly advisable, but they are expensive). Given their apparently increasing aggressiveness, and the risk they pose to human health, there have been calls by Balinese politicians for a cull of macaques in Bali.

I was glad to see the back of these cheeky monkeys!
I was glad to see the back of these cheeky monkeys!

If I am honest, I don’t think the Monkey Forest in Ubud should open to tourists. Do I sound like a killjoy? Well, maybe. But I think the whole thing is an accident waiting to happen. Naturally, many accidents have occurred already, but how many more monkey bites (and potential Rabies infections) do we have to endure before the Balinese authorities do something about it? Of course, the monkeys live here, and there is no need to “evict” them, but the monkeys here in Ubud are not at all scared of Humans, and in fact, if anything, it is the Humans who are scared of them! It’s like the Planet of the Apes around here! So in the interests of safety – especially for little children who are oblivious to the dangers – I think it’s about time this place was “de-touristed”.

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15 thoughts on “Ubud’s Monkey Forest: an accident waiting to happen

  1. I went to monkey forest a couple of years ago and we were about ten steps in when a monkey ran up and bit a Chinese tourist. She had to be wheeled out on a stretcher. Needless to say, we turned around and walked out. Of course there was a ‘no refund’ policy.

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    1. Hmm, I know you might want some nice pictures, but you must consider that the monkeys may try to snatch it from you, and if they do, who knows where it would end up? Make sure you wear some shorts with zip pockets!

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  2. So you take in food when they advise is not to. You tease the monkeys by holding up bananas (food you shouldn’t be taking inside in the first place) and you wonder why you got bitten. Quite funny.

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  3. i was in monkey forest and was scratched on my right leg by a monkey, I immediately got first aid at the main gate and the medical attendant said no need to worry you don’t need any injections the monkeys are rabies free, after reading the blog I’m apprehensive should I get vaccinated it’s already 10 days now ??

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    1. Hi Ankur. πŸ™‚ I am sure you will be fine if you haven’t had any symptoms already. I would recommend getting checked out by a health professional though. Vaccinations really only prevent BEFORE a bite happens, but there can be treatment from your doctor for any kind of bite, so get it checked out to be on the safe side. πŸ™‚

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      1. Hey Backpackerlee and Ankur
        Just wanted to advise you both that rabies are preventable even if you haven’t had your vaccinations before the bite, if you get it treated immediately (within 24 hours) it is preventable.
        But as Backpackerlee said you should defiantly get it checked out by a health professional asap πŸ™‚

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  4. I was bitten 17 dΓ ys ago while sitting having a rest. Just before I saw a monkey jump on a girls back, open the er of her backpack, feel around and took a camera battery out. All the while we were trying to tell her to stay calm. Staff eventually came with a banana and retrieved the battery. I haven’t had any medical treatment however will go today, better late than never I suppose. I will never go again!

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