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.