I was asked to join a meeting organized by IUCN Mediterranean and the Moroccan High Commissary of Water and Forests about the process of creating and implementing species conservation action plans (CAPs) in Morocco. Of course this alone was an honor as I strongly feel that since we have created the CAP for the Barbary macaque together with the Moroccan authorities that MPC is seen as part of the inside crowd for species conservation in Morocco.
While identifying plant and animal species in Morocco that need a CAP, based on criteria such as the status, the importance of the species in ecosystems, cultural, economic and social importance, I realised for the first time exactly why the conservation of the Barbary macaque in Morocco has been so difficult. While talking about for example striped hyenas, the endangered gazelles, not a single person saw reason to react negatively or discuss the status. One participant even mentioned the otter, a species that is not endangered in Morocco, and nobody questioned this species. However, the Barbary macaque again caused some resistance (not by the authorities by the way). One person in particular even believed that the shifting from the category “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List was based on wrong data and that the research on which this decision was based on was not valid as it was not approved or conducted by the Moroccan authorities. This shocked me, as this is incorrect, and on top of that, I find it quite an insult to the people who have worked hard to assess the species in the wild over the last decade.
It slowly became clear to me that the defensive attitude of some people (and many in the past) is caused by the fact that there has been and still is such a pressure from outside of Morocco, and everything that is claimed by people outside the country (even if it is scientifically proven and/ or it’s obvious because the consequences are clearly there) is seen as criticism. To acknowledge failure is not an easy thing, especially to people from the “West” who seem to know everything better.
It’s interesting. The proof is there, the many scientific studies can prove it all, the macaques that end up in Europe that are handed over by their ex owners who admit to have bought it in Morocco and smuggled it to Morocco prove an active illegal trade, the macaque poachers and sellers admit to it all, but still there are people who refuse to believe the obvious.
I am glad the authorities that we work with have changed their attitude.