I just picked up the new edition of the TRAFFIC Bulletin, a very interesting magazine about current wildlife trade issues around the world. Now you must think, why is this of any importance?
Well, actually it was a copy of a TRAFFIC Bulletin issue back in 2003 that made me initially realize that something should be done about the illegal trade in Barbary macaques in Morocco.
I was at the time working at AAP, a rescue center for exotic animals in the Netherlands as head of the animal care department , and the numbers of macaques offered to AAP for shelter were going through the roof. So many Barbary macaques were offered to us by ex owners, authorities, zoos and sanctuaries around Europe that we had to maintain a waiting list – more that 60 macaques were on the waiting list permanently. AAP simply could not provide for all these poor victims of the illegal pet trade.
Many ex owners explained to us that they had bought the macaques on the “souks” in Morocco and smuggled them illegally across the border into Spain. Unfortunately these people did not know at the time that keeping a primate as a pet is bound to end up in failure and suffering for these individual monkeys. After a while the macaques would become impossible to handle in domestic situations and the owners wanted to get rid of these “pets”.
Macaques were found roaming the streets of Paris, or tied up to a post somewhere near a petrol station. I myself was involved in a rescue of 3 little macaques who were all found in the region of Paris.
At the time I estimated that a minimum of 300 macaques ended up in Europe this way straight from the wild in Morocco.
So when I read the the section in TRAFFIC Bulletin where they give an overview of the confiscations of illegally smuggled animals and plants per country and Morocco was not mentioned once, I started doing some research in former editions and found out that there had been no mention of anything concerning Barbary macaque trade in Morocco at all – while the trade was booming.
This was the start of everything I have done today on Barbary macaque conservation so far. Unfortunately there is still no mention of Barbary macaque confiscations at the Moroccan borders in the bulletin, but at least we are working hard in Morocco now to tackle these illegal activities!