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
One of the very important functions the forest provides for Barbary macaques is shelter from predators and from weather. Barbary macaques are one of the only species of monkey found in an environment where it snows, and so it is extremely important that they find a safe sleeping location which protects from the cold, wind, rain, and snow overnight. MPC has been conducting research on where macaques choose to sleep and how that relates to forest structure, mapping specific areas used as sleeping sites around the Azrou forest in Ifrane National Park, identifying characteristics important to sleeping areas so the results can be applied more generally to other areas of Barbary macaque range, and understanding how sleeping areas are influenced by legal and illegal logging. These results will help to prioritize areas of forest for protection and guide future conservation actions and forest management decisions.
Read the presentation abstract from MPC’s 10 Years of Barbary Macaque Conservation Conference to learn more about this important research!
MPC’s research on macaque sleeping trees will help us understand the impact of logging on the macaques. Finding a safe place to sleep which shelters from predators and from weather is especially important during poor winter weather.
An example of illegal logging. Shepherds prune the branches of cedar trees to provide fodder for livestock, resulting in trees with fewer branches. MPC’s research on macaque sleeping trees will help us understand how these actions affect the macaques.read more
The Eco-Guards aim to preserve not only the macaques but also their forest habitat. The guards investigate any sounds of logging they hear in the forest, and patrol the forest to document and map locations of illegal logging and burning.
Raising awareness about Barbary macaque issues is key to their conservation and reducing the demand for poached infants. Furthermore, irresponsible tourism can have many negative effects, including macaque health problems and aggression from feeding, transfer of disease to both humans and monkeys from close contact, increased risk of poaching as young macaques are habituated to humans, and increased risk of vehicular injury and death from macaques spending more time near roads, just to name a few. The Eco-Guards manage Tourist Sites within INP to increase the safety and welfare on monkeys within the park by stopping people from parking and feeding monkeys on the road which can be very dangerous, advising people on the dangers of feeding macaques, warning when people get too close to the animals, and preventing aggression from humans towards the macaques. The Eco-Guards engage in discussions with tourists, providing information and answering their questions. Tourists are also invited to answer surveys so we can understand their knowledge regarding Barbary macaques so we can better focus our conservation efforts. Preliminary results from these surveys suggest that very few people are aware of the problems associated with feeding wild macaques, suggesting increased awareness can remediate this issue, and that the majority of people do not even realize that Barbary macaques are an Endangered species. The Eco-Guards not only aim to make Tourist Sites within Ifrane National Park a safer place for macaques, but also more enjoyable and educational for visitors as well.
Visitors to the park are invited to answer surveys so we can understand the opinions and knowledge of people coming to see the monkeys so this information can be used to guide future education initiatives.read more
Several camera traps have been placed throughout the forest which monitor 24 hours a day, both day and night. The cameras are placed strategically in order to monitor for any illegal activities which the Eco-Guards may miss, including illegal logging, charcoal burning, poaching, and hunting. The cameras have so far captured one illegal wild boar hunt during the night.
The cameras also capture the wonderful diversity of animal life in Ifrane National Park. Monkeys, foxes (Vulpes vulpes), wolves (Canis anthus), genets (Genetta genetta), hare (Lepus capensis), hedgehogs (Atelerix algirus), and wildcats (Felix lybica) are just some of the species we have photographed with the traps. Protecting this habitat benefits not only the monkeys but all these species which rely on the forests of Ifrane National Park. Exploring the interactions between wildlife diversity and distribution and human impact can help us better understand our impact on nature.
Keep an eye on the facebook and website for more beautiful pictures of the wildlife in Ifrane National Park!read more
A team of 7 Eco-Guards have been working since July to prevent poaching and monitor other illegal activities throughout the park. Guards patrol day and night to deter and stop poachers, working closely with the Moroccan authorities from the HCEFLCD to combat illegal activities.
So far the project has been very successful. Three suspected poaching attempts have been successfully stopped by the guards, and the presence of the guards is believed to have prevented poaching in the region. The number of infants in several groups are monitored regularly to assess for poaching, and so far no infants in any group have been recorded missing. The hard work by the eco-guards has been effective at combatting the poaching of infants!read more
The MPC team during the recent launch in Azrou
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
MonkeyWatch Promo Video
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
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….
We are proud to offer this free downloadable Moroccan recipe book filled with yummy vegan dishes to help inspire your cooking. This book was created by MPC’s volunteer, Demelza Bond, and we are really excited to show this to our supporters. We hope you enjoy it.
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Thank you!read more