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
It is widely known that Ifrane National Park is the main poaching area in Morocco. One of the reasons for this is that there are habituated groups in the forest that are being fed by tourists and are thus much easier to capture for the illegal pet trade.
We have seen an increase in the last year of people coming to the forest and trying to catch the young macaques themselves. In the past most macaques were captured by organised groups of poachers but it is becoming increasingly easy to capture an infant macaque in these habituated groups.
The presence of the Barbary macaque project students and also some of the fossil sellers that are close to these groups during the day has stopped poachers from succeeding to take a macaque from the wild – that shows how important it is to have surveillance over these groups, especially in the summer months.
We want to share 2 cases where Faical Boutlib, an MSc student of the University of Fez, was extremely brave and stopped people from taking infants from the Blue group.
The first case was when 2 Moroccan people came to the Blue group to capture an infant for their children to play with. Luckily Faical was there and he and his friends stopped them and called the authorities. It s unkown if they actualy arrested the people but at least they did not succeed to take the infant.
The 2nd was the case was when 5 Moroccans who live in Spain came and one of them started to climb a cedar tree. Luckily Faical and Nina were there and stopped the poachers. They wanted to take the newborn of a female monkey. Faical took the registration number of the car which was Spanish, and called the authorities. There are rumours that these people were arrested but we do not have a confirmation of that.
We are very worried about this news and MPC is planning on increasing the surveillance in the coming months to guard mainly the habituated groups in the Azrou forest area.read more