MPC, in partnership with the Peace Corps, have been conducting a Junior Conservationist Youth Education Program over the past 2 months in Azrou, inviting members of the community to participate in sessions which occur twice a week on a different topic relating to conservation of Barbary macaques, the forest, and other Moroccan wildlife. Those who attended enough sessions were awarded with the title of Junior Conservationist. Read our last blog post to learn more about the program.
Approximately 70 children graduated from the program, and 40 were able to attend the graduation ceremony in the forest of Ifrane National Park. As soon as arriving in the forest, the Junior Conservationists took it upon themselves to educate the tourists who were watching and feeding the macaques on what they had learned, including advising on the dangers of feeding macaques, being too close to the macaques, and being too close to the road, as well as teaching the visitors about macaque conservation, behaviour, and ecology.
The Junior Conservationists also cleaned the forest of litter, thanks to the generous donation of materials and garbage collection from Azrou Pizzorno Environement.
The MPC Eco-Guard Team Leader Mohamed then led the Junior Conservationists and the teachers who attended on an educational nature hike through the forest, teaching about the plants and animals they came across, and demonstrating the work of the Eco-Guards.
Everyone enjoyed not only putting what they learned into practice, but also playing in the snow that remained in some areas of the National Park!
We are very grateful to Erin and Will Owens of the Peace Corp for their hard work on this collaboration, to the Azrou Youth Club for donating the use of their conference hall, to the International Primate Protection League for funding during this period, to the teachers and schools who donated their time and the use of a school bus, and to Ifrane National Park, HCEFLCD, and Stichting AAP for their continued collaboration of the work of MPC and the Eco-Guards. We are very proud of all the Junior Conservationists, and we hope to continue the program in the coming years and expand to other areas of Morocco!
Written by Liz Campbell
Written by Liz AD Campbell
We are very excited to announce the first Barbary Macaque Junior Conservationist Youth Education Program, conducted by MPC and the Peace Corps!
The Junior Conservationist Program is an 8-week education program offered to the youth in town, beginning this year in Azrou where MPC is based, with plans to expand to other regions in Morocco in future years. Sessions are held twice a week and each session covers a different subject relating to conservation and ecology, focusing on Barbary macaques. Examples of topics include General Information on Barbary macaques, Barbary Macaque Poaching, Barbary Macaque Tourism, and Other Wildlife in Ifrane National Park. Sessions include a lesson followed by games or videos, and anyone is welcome to attend. Those who attend at enough of the sessions will be awarded with a certificate of completion and the status of “Junior Conservationist.” The final session will be an art day followed by a trip to Ifrane National Park with the Eco-Guard Team Leader, who will guide the Junior Conservationists on an educational hike through the forest, learning about the plants and animals they find, and cleaning the forest of garbage.
Erin Owens and Will Owens of the Peace Corps and Mohamed Boussfel, MPC’s Eco-Guard Team Leader, have been working extremely hard over the past months to develop and deliver this program, and the Azrou Youth Club has been very generous in donating the use of one of their rooms for the program. We are currently about half-way through the program. Although the program was originally intended for youth in town, we are extremely pleased that several adults have begun attending as well. The turn-out for this first run of the program has been great, with nearly 50 attendees so far each week.
“I think the kids are enjoying seeing a program they have never learned about,” Erin Owen says. She says some of the parents are happy that their children are learning about the environment, and that one of the English teachers in Azrou is very proud that her class is attending the program and have a chance to practice their English. We at MPC are very happy to be able to be a part of offering this program to the community, offering something fun for the kids to do, while also teaching them about the beauty and value of the wildlife surrounding their hometown and hopefully instilling in them a sense of stewardship to protect this beautiful habitat and the species within it.
We would like to give a big thank you to the Peace Corps for their collaboration and hard work on this program and the Youth Club for their donation of the room. We are also very grateful to the International Primate Protection League (IPPL) for their funding of the Eco-Guards during this period, Stichting AAP for their partnership and funding of the Eco-Guard Program, and to the HCEFLCD and Ifrane National Park for their collaboration in the protection of the Barbary macaque and their role in the Eco-Guards Program.read more
We are very excited this week to have launched the promo video for MonkeyWatch, our exciting eco-tourism, monitoring and anti-poaching programme, in partnership with the Barbary Macaque Project.
MonkeyWatch offers tourists the unique opportunity to come and join us in carrying out fieldwork to protect the Barbary macaque monkeys of Morocco. Our experienced guides will take visitors through the mixed cedar and oak forests of Ifrane National Park, teaching them survey techniques and all about the natural behaviour of Barbary macaques in the wild.
MonkeyWatch does more than offer tourists an exciting day out, it allows them to contribute to the conservation of endangered Barbary macaques. The presence of our ego-guard guides means we can help reduce illegal poaching and logging, and create awareness among local communities of the need to protect, monitor and conserve the wild macaque populations.
The fate of the endangered Barbary macaque lies in the success of such projects, and we really need to get the word out in order to continue to protect this beautiful species.
If you haven’t caught the amazing video made by Ateles Films on our social media pages, you can watch it right here:
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our generous sponsors: The International Primate Protection League, Trentham Monkey Forest, Montagne des Singes, La Forêt de Singes and Affenberg Salem.
Visit www.monkeywatch.org for more information.read more
We have now passed the half-way point of this year’s pilot stage of the “Anti-Poaching, Tourist Education, and Community Engagement” project, and we are so far extremely pleased with the success and achievements of the project!
Seven Eco-Guards have been hired through a collaboration with MPC and the Moroccan High Commission of Water, Forests, and Desertification Control (HCEFLCD) and Ifrane National Park (INP), made possible through the support of our partner AAP Sanctuary for Exotic Animals. The eco-guards have worked continuously since July to prevent the poaching of infant Barbary macaques from Azrou forest in INP, while also monitoring for illegal logging and other illegal activities, educating tourists on macaque and forest conservation, and managing interactions between macaques and tourists to make Ifrane National Park safe for both animals and visitors.
We are very happy to announce the achievements of the project thus far. Since the project began, three suspected poaching attempts were stopped, thanks to the hard work of the guards and by contributions from the local community. By working together we have been able to protect these monkeys from poachers. The eco-guards monitor several groups of macaques in the area to measure the success of the anti-poaching patrols, and so far there has been zero poaching in the monitored groups! This is in contrast to previous years with these groups – in 2013, 32% of infants disappeared and were believed to have been poached. We are past the most dangerous time of year of late summer when the risk of poaching is most extreme, thanks to the hard work of the eco-guards who patrolled the forest 24 hours every day, and we are confident that with the continued effort of the eco-guards, the macaques will remain safe and wild.
This success would not have been possible without the close collaboration between MPC, HCEFLCD, INP, and AAP, and without the motivation of the eco-guards and local community to protect these macaques and their forest.read more
I just woke up in the same hotel room where I have been staying while in Morocco for over 10 years now. The noise outside of the bus station is still exactly the same as it has always been. Hustlers trying to get people in to their taxis and buses, screaming the names of the destination cities with the most annoying voices. Believe me, I have had many visions of ways to make them stop when I was trying to get work done. After such a long time, nothing much has changed. And that somehow characterizes Morocco. Despite the rapid development and changes implemented by the King, time in Morocco somehow always seems to stand still and the basic things on the streets that make Morocco so typical, never seem to change.
What has changed since I started my work with MPC is my hotel room. Back in 2005 until 2 years ago, I was staying in what I always referred to as Cockroach Inn rooms. Tiny rooms, no window, no heater to warm me up when I came back from a 10 km transect in the field up to my knees in snow and no hot shower. I would be sitting with a woollen blanket covering my head to keep me warm, while my blue freezing fingers tried to add data in the laptop. Today I stay in a room with private bathroom, for 10 Euro a night – something that was too expensive for me when I started with MPC.
What also has changed is the fact that back in 2005, the only person I knew in Azrou was my field assistant. My life in Morocco could be very lonely at the time. The days in the forest with the monkeys were incredible, but the evenings could be very challenging. If I look at my life here now, I am proud to say that I have made some great friends and that MPC has grown to be an organisation with 9 local staff, who are working in the forest to protect the macaques as I speak.
I am so proud of what MPC has achieved since I started this work. I think that I am living proof of how far passion can take you. When I sum up the projects that we have implemented and what we have achieved, it almost seems surreal to me. The day that I left my life behind in Holland to fight for the Barbary macaques in Morocco is still so clear in my memory.
The macaques are still up there in that incredible forest of Ifrane NP, only 4 km away from me. The fast decline in numbers of the past decades has come to a standstill. I like to believe that I have contributed to this. Change is inevitable in life, and sometimes change is good. But the disappearance of the Barbary macaques in Morocco is definitely not a change that we should accept…. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT WE ACHIEVED!
In November 2014, MPC organized a workshop with the mineral sellers that have their stalls in the forest in Ifrane NP on 2 locations along the road that crosses through the forest. This is a very busy road. The mineral sellers feed 2 groups of monkeys so that they stay near them and attract tourists to stop and buy souvenirs from them. But this feeding and uncontrolled parking of cars along the road has caused at least 6 macaque deaths by traffic, 2 who are very recent.
For this reason we invited the mineral sellers and the national park management to discuss solutions for this problem. MPC strongly believes that involving them is the solution and if we all work together we can prevent the problems of deaths by traffic and feeding of monkeys.
Our Monkeywatch guides and Mohamed MPC’s monkey guard participated as well to make sure that everybody who works in our team can help implement and enforce the decisions.
The meeting went really well and we came up with a lot of feasible solutions that we will elaborate more on later. This is a very good start and we are really pleased to have more and more local people involved in Barbary macaque conservation in Ifrane NP!!read more
By: Demelza Bond
Poaching has long been a major problem in Ifrane National Park, and the magnificent primates who inhabit the forests there are at a constant, substantial risk of falling victim to those who pursue them for profit. Due to the fact that groups of tourists regularly feed the habituated Barbary macaques in Ifrane, they are becoming increasingly un-phased by any human presence; which in turn makes it much easier for poachers to get close to the curious and trusting monkeys. Poor youngsters are effortlessly snatched and taken away from their natural habitats and families to be sold in the cruel, illegal pet trade.
Unfortunately there has been a significant rise again in poaching activity in recent years. This means more wild monkeys are being stolen and sold as pets or working props. They will most likely undergo immense physical and psychological suffering as a result, as they are deprived of their natural surroundings and all opportunity to interact with others of their species. It also poses a threat to the wellbeing of macaque numbers nationally, creating huge dents in their already dwindling populations.
Since 2008, Barbary macaques have been listed as Endangered by the IUCN, and so it is absolutely vital that these beautiful little monkeys remain in the forest where they belong. This is why MPC piloted their first ever anti-poaching scheme in 2014; in a bid to protect the vulnerable infants of the forêt d’Azrou, funded by the International Primate Protection League.
Overall the pilot was a great success. MPC deployed two monkey guards who were granted authority to take action by the INP authorities, were they to detect poaching activity. One of our guards managed to stop an entire group of poachers one night – and the local community’s awareness of intensified surveillance possibly lead to a decrease in poaching attempts overall. Six of the eight guarded groups amazingly still had all of their infants after two months of surveillance during the heaviest poaching season (August to October). Whereas, last year, a devastating 80% of the forest’s infants were actually poached in one night.
Not only does the presence of MPC staff deter poachers, but it allows us to educate visitors about conservation issues! On average we were able to speak to around 80 tourists per week which means that about 650 national and international visitors could be made aware of the consequences of feeding the monkeys, and the atrocities of the macaque pet trade. We also wanted to work with the fossil sellers in the park. Fossil sellers run small shops there and have a tendency to feed the monkeys in order to keep them close-by to attract tourists. As it is their livelihood, we would like to educate the fossil sellers on how they too can be part of the growing effort to protect the macaques, particularly by feeding them only healthy, natural foods like fruit or nuts, and to do so in locations far away from the dangerous roads.
We are very proud of the achievements made this time around, and would like to give a massive thank you to Mohamed, Badr, Hassan, Liz and Paddy for their amazing work in Ifrane National park. MPC is now looking forward to the future. We would like to increase the number of guards and to expand surveillance to southern INP. Flyers and posters will also be created so that more and more visitors can be made aware of the plight of the macaques, whilst still enjoying the opportunity to visit the forests and be in their magical presence.
Author: Demelza Bond
Contents derived from thesis research report by Molly Gray (Oxford Brookes University)
In Ourika Valley in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco lies a constellation of villages where agriculture is not only the centre of the economy; but a way of life for the Berber inhabitants there. For most of the village farmers, cultivated crops are their main source of income, and for some it is their sole source. Two groups of Barbary macaques also inhabit the area and are unfortunately raiding and eating large portions of the crops on a regular basis, causing major issues for the locals and creating a significant annual income deficit for many of the farmers. Molly Grey visited the valley in 2014, to carry out research into the effects of crop-raiding macaques, and to gather information about the farmers’ perceptions of these rogue monkeys.
Speaking to 70 farmers between the ages of 18 and 80, she discovered that overall an average of 29% of their crops were being damaged or eaten annually by the macaque groups. Due to a limited number of income sources in the area, the growth and sale of cherries, apples, pears, walnuts, tomatoes and onions are imperative to the farmers’ wellbeing and survival, and an intensifying level of crop-raiding over the past 5-10 years has thus left them feeling hopeless and frustrated. The farmers did not necessarily express a dislike of the monkeys, but wished to find a way to deter them from literally eating away at their livelihoods. Chemicals (such as phosphates) are used as a simple solution to insect damage, but in the case of the increasingly brave and undeterred macaques, the farmers’ attempts at scaring or chasing them away are predictably futile in most cases.
A lack of access to weapons, combined with the belief for many of the Muslim farmers that it would be anti-Islamic to use lethal preventative methods against the monkeys; means that the macaques in this area are fortunate compared to many other primate populations across the globe who are systematically shot at for crop-raiding activity. Farmers also expressed an understanding of the need to conserve the species, due to the fact that under the IUCN they are now listed as Endangered, but believe that the government should take measures to protect the farmers’ quality of life, as well as macaques, and find a solution to the human/primate conflict taking place.
The two groups of macaques consisted of 32 individuals (Ilkiri group) and 48 individuals (Agadir group) who would move from farm to farm raiding crops throughout the day and retire around 7.45pm each night. The monkeys tended to show a preference towards walnuts and apples, but this may be relative to the fact that these two items are the most widely grown. However all of the food items grown in the valley are palatable to the macaques and so all are at risk of severe damage. Many of the farmers held the misconception that the populations of macaques were actually increasing, which added to their feelings of anguish.
Unfortunately this form of conflict is growing all over the world, as human populations increase and encroach on to non-human primate habitats, and periods of drought make it difficult for primate populations to find viable sources of food in the wild. Whilst a solution will not be straightforward, the issue must be addressed, and the government and Toubkal National Park need to begin engaging in discourse with the local communities to create possible solutions. Whilst the farmers are facing clear hardship it also is important to remember that macaque populations are declining dramatically in Morocco and continued support for conservational efforts are desperately needed. As Molly states in her report, it is important to understand the problem from both sides if we are ever going to successfully mitigate the conflict and one day co-exist peacefully.read more
Author: Demelza Bond
In the past year we have sadly seen a high number of Barbary macaque deaths as a direct result of the traffic on Route N13 in Morocco. In Ifrane National Park there are two tourist locations (Agdel and Moudmame) which are each habituated by groups of macaques. Unfortunately both sites are located along this very busy highway in areas where the road curves, and where the 60km speed limit often goes ignored. Groups of tourists parking in these areas adds to the heavy vehicular traffic at both sites, and the feeding of the macaques by national and international tourists means that more monkeys are regularly venturing closer and closer to the road.
Since July 2013, The Barbary macaque project team has recorded the deaths of 6 Barbary macaques that were killed on the road here. At the Agdal site there are approximately 30 individuals. 5 of the recorded monkey deaths occurred here, which means that 17% of the group were killed in just over a year. One individual was killed at the Moudmame site, but many more deaths in that specific area may have gone unreported. Barbary macaques are an endangered species, and thus a death rate as high as 17% is extremely alarming. Such a dramatic population decrease is clearly unsustainable for the species!
Of the individuals killed, there included 2 dominant females, a dominant male, 2 juveniles and one infant. The deaths of each are not only troubling in themselves, but can have devastating impacts on the serenity of the remaining populations. In one instance, for example, the death of a dominant male (Fergus) lead to the group hierarchy being thrown out of balance for months. This led to further aggression and injuries within the group. The death of the dominant female group members is also particularly worrying, due to the fact that these females tend to be have a high reproductive output and are hence the most capable of increasing the rapidly diminishing populations.
It is extremely sad to see the injuries caused to the monkeys by traffic which ultimately result in their deaths. The Barbary macaque project team has witnessed horrific cases of monkeys losing massive amounts of blood and sometimes having their limbs close to being severed. The suffering is often extreme and prolonged. One tiny infant whose leg was partly severed was carried to a tree by her mother. She was so unstable due to her pain that she eventually fell from the branch to the ground, resulting in her breaking her spine. The mother was in a state of utter distress and could be heard screaming intermittently for a period of 2 days after the incident.
It is the goal of Moroccan Primate Conservation to ensure that the death toll decreases and that these beautiful endangered monkeys will be safe from dangerous roads. In the very near future we will be pushing for, and hope to see, a reduction in the speed limit applied across the 2km stretch of road covering these two sites, and for parking to be prohibited in this area to reduce dangerous traffic. These solutions may not only help to decrease the number of macaque fatalities in Ifrane, but prevent the possibility of a human one day being harmed too.read more