The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is a unique species. It is the only primate found north of the Sahara desert, the only primate that can be found in Europe (Gibraltar) and the only species of the Genus “Macaca” that can be found outside of Asia. The Barbary macaque is an extremely adaptable animal that can live in very cold and very warm weather conditions.
The last populations are threatened by habitat destruction and in Morocco by the illegal trade in infant macaques from Morocco to Europe.
The Barbary macaque used to be widespread throughout North Africa. Now the wild populations are restricted to small patches of forest/ scrub areas in both Morocco (the Rif mountains, Middle Atlas – and High Atlas mountains), in Algeria (Tellian Atlas) and Gibraltar (introduced semi-wild population). The largest population of the Barbary macaque can be found in the unique and beautiful mixed cedar/ oak forests of Parc National d’Ifrane in the Middle Atlas, but this population, like the other populations, is declining rapidly. Since 2008 the Barbary macaque is officially classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List and is listed on CITES Appendix II.
In the 70’s the density was 40 -70 individuals per km2, today the density in some areas is a mere 7 individuals per km2. The total population of wild Barbary macaques in Morocco in 1975 was 17500. Today it is estimated to be only 5000 – 6000 according to the latest field work by Andrea Camperio Ciani, Nelly Ménard and Els van Lavieren (Resp. 2008, 2009 and 2005), and ongoing studies by Sian Waters in the Rif mountains.