Market surveys in West Java
Doing market surveys is no easy task for the LFP team in Java. You are faced with seeing hundreds and thousands of animals all crammed into the smallest possible cages. Often times there are many animals stuffed into one cage, and the conditions are awful. Most animals do not even have water, let alone food! If they are lucky enough to have anything to eat, it is often not at all suitable, with sugary bananas being a favourite amongst traders. Keeping a straight face and acting as if all is nice and cute is paramount to avoid suspicion but it is also extremely challenging at times.
Recently, the LFP team went undercover to a series of markets across western Java. Every market we visited was dirty and smelt horrible – like death. It doesn’t take long to see that such a smell comes from dozens of birds sharing cages that have most likely never been cleaned, and if so, the excrement is just emptied on the floor below. Cage upon cage is stacked on top of each other. Bird cages can be placed on top of a tank full of hamsters, which in turn is resting on a cage of lizards.
The biggest shock for the team was the sheer number of civets seen! The common palm civet, a small nocturnal carnivore, seems to be of growing popularity as a pet. In one city the team even saw a civet on a chain sitting on the back of a motor cycle!
In Jakarta, one of the road side stalls was specialized in macaques. There were at least eight cages visible, with in each between 3-5 juvenile macaques. The sadness in their eyes was heart breaking! We did not encounter any lorises or other primate species at the markets. But that does not mean they are not there!
Many animals show signs of abnormal or stereotype behaviour as a result of psychological trauma which is extremely difficult to witness. Birds frequently hop up and down the cage, whilst sugar gliders were repeatedly performing back flips.
Shockingly, outside a big mall in the city centre we encountered a seller who had 4 owls of two different species, two sugar gliders and a turtle for sale. This is a beautiful mall, full of western chains, and yet outside on the street there were animal sellers trading in exotic pets. Sellers happily took the animals out of the cages to show you and entice you to touch. The animals are often clearly stressed or desperately try to avoid being caught.
A sense of hopelessness overwhelms you at some point whilst walking through the markets. It is important at those moments to remember that with education things can change, as we have seen around the field site. It is therefore critical that we focus on education to help instill a love for animals so that in the future they will no longer be found on Java’s cruel animal markets.
Though it seems that civets are very popular as pets in the illegal markets, they are also being used for making civet coffee.
In an upscale supermarket in Jakarta, the LFP team encountered three different brands of civet coffee in the rack amongst other coffee varieties. Additionally, in one of the hostels the team stayed, it was amongst the morning coffee options. Whether it has been around for a while, or the demand is growing, please do not contribute to it. Think before you buy nicely packaged civet coffee or Kopie Luwak as wonderful nocturnal animals may be suffering.