The sounds of the city can be loud: the revving of engines, car horns blasting, sirens screeching, buses backfiring and belching black clouds of exhaust into the atmosphere. It’s unusual in this urban racket to hear the sounds of animals, but along one South Jakarta street a cacophony of animal cries and songs can be heard.
Only a short walk from the urban intensity on the south side of town, this tree-lined street enjoys relative greenery and so too shade from the hot sun and humidity of the city.
It is a street like any other in the city — except that it is filled with stalls and shops selling pets and all the paraphernalia that comes with owning one.
Numerous stalls line a portion of Jalan Barito. One portion of the street features fruit sellers, so as you walk down the street you may be able to enjoy aromatic and fresh smells. But as you walk further, the animal sounds can be heard and the fresh smell of fruit gives way to the less welcome smells of animals being kept.
There is a wide range of different animals on sale here. From numerous familiar domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats and rabbits, through to more exotic species of reptiles, snakes, small owls, beautifully-colored songbirds and even monkeys.
This is a veritable menagerie of the animal kingdom.
Just as there is considerable variety in the species available here so too is there a considerable range in price tags.
Budi, a smiling attendant at one of the many street stalls, holds up a small hamster and declares “They’re cheap, cheap; only Rp 20,000 [$2]. How many do you want to buy?”
Other animals, though, are not so affordable.
Persian cats preen themselves and show little interest in potential buyers or owners. Their luxuriant fur coats are carefully cleaned and combed by the stall attendants — and they come at a price. Typical prices quoted here start at about Rp 2 million for some well-bred kittens.
For pet owners who aren’t interested in warm and furry, there are still many choices, ranging in species and budgets. When it comes to reptiles, Jalan Barito mixes the more exotic offerings with the likes of the more commonly seen neon-colored lizards and snakes.
Tiny monkeys too can be found here and are hugely entertaining but some caution is advisable.
When buying a pet, considerable care and attention is required. Animals are more susceptible to disease and infection in a large city like Jakarta, which has an unhealthily high rat population.
The sellers here are quick to assure you that their animals have received all the appropriate vaccinations, but looking down the street you cannot help but wonder whether this street-setting is entirely healthy for the animals on sale.
Jalan Barito is, after all, a city street and there are times when, like so many streets in Jakarta, it gets backed up with bumper-to-bumper traffic. This hardly seems to be a good atmosphere for animals to spend time in.
Sellers can be seen showering and shampooing their animals and those actions suggest that a level of care is being administered to the animals but still, the environment feels less than ideal and some of the older animals do tend to look rather forlorn.
Despite this, Jalan Barito is full of character, animal colorfulness and even magic; and for some people it is a place of patronage. One friend bought a parrot here some 10 years ago and returns regularly to both buy food for the bird and enjoy looking at what new creatures this unusual street is offering up as pets.
My friend proudly boasts of how the bird has achieved bilingualism — able to squawk greetings in both Indonesian and English. An unusual bird bought on an unusual street in the city.