International Community rallies to protect a monkey species for the first time in 30 years
Barbary macaques will take center stage in Johannesburg, alongside emblematic fauna such as elephants, lions, rhinos and sharks.
The CITES Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17), which is currently taking place in South Africa, has the power to change the fate of Barbary macaques and stop their race towards extinction. In an almost unprecedented move, all range States and the main consumer countries providing the market for these animals have rallied together behind a joint Morocco-EU proposal to transfer the species to Appendix I of the Convention, which will afford them the highest level of international protection from trade and help enhance enforcement measures against trafficking in this species. The proposal has also received overwhelming support from the global animal welfare and conservation community.
The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is the only African primate species north of the Sahara, the only macaque species in Africa and the only non-human primate living in the wild in Europe (Gibraltar). In the last 30 years, the populations of this unique primate in Morocco and Algeria have dwindled from approximately 23,000 to the latest estimates of 6,500 – 9,100. The largest wild subpopulation, which inhabits the mixed cedar forests of the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco, has been decimated: only 5,000 remain, a 65% decrease in just three decades.
A significant number of Barbary macaques, mostly infants, are illegally captured from the wild and traded every year, mainly to feed the European exotic pet trade and to be used as tourist photo props. The protection granted to the species both in Morocco and Algeria, its listing on Appendix II of CITES and an EU import ban have done little to help curb poaching and trafficking in these intelligent and sensitive endangered primates. This criminal activity is increasingly in the hands of organized international networks. Barbary macaques remain the most frequently seized CITES-listed live mammal in the EU.
“The endangered Barbary macaque could get a new chance at survival at the CITES CoP17. Intense collaboration with authorities both in Morocco and in Europe has resulted in increased attention and prioritization of the species. Now we finally see the international community rallying behind this as well and recognizing its importance in the fight against global wildlife trafficking”, explains Raquel Garcia of AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, the European rescue centre of reference for Barbary macaques emerging from the illegal trade. AAP estimates that approximately 3,000 Barbary macaques could be currently being kept as pets in Europe.
Gerben Jan Gerbrandy, Member of the European Parliament for D66 and Head of the European Parliament Delegation to CoP17, agrees on the importance of this moment: “The adoption of the joint proposal from the EU and Morocco would be a key next step in protecting a species for which the EU is unfortunately a key destination market. Now we have to make sure that any agreement is properly and coherently enforced to the fullest effect. That is where the real difference will be made.”
North Africa is the gateway to Europe for other illegal wildlife products, including live specimens such as endangered tortoises. Tackling Barbary macaque trafficking is expected to help with protection of other endangered species, some which are also on the agenda at CoP17.
“This truly unique and endangered primate species needs all the protection we can provide as international community. The highest possible protection from CITES will strengthen conservation efforts underway to help the Barbary macaque survive and thrive. It makes total sense to support the range states, Morocco and Algeria, in this goal,” adds Rikkert Reijnen of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Scientific support for the proposal
Dr. Shirley McGreal of the International Primate Protection League has also expressed strong support: “I am at the NAPSA (North American Primate Alliance) conference in Tacoma and of course IPPL is delighted that Morocco and the EU have proposed the elevation of the Barbary macaque to Appendix I of CITES. There are less of them in the world than there are humans in the small town where I live!”
Dr. John Cortes, co-editor of The Barbary Macaque: Biology, Management and Conservation (2006) has been a long-time defender of the species: “I fully support and endorse the proposal. As Minister for the Environment in Gibraltar, a range State for the Barbary Macaque, and familiar with the species in North Africa, I agree fully with the statement and its aims.”
Efforts to increase protection and better conservation measures for Barbary macaques are being led by the following organizations:
- AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, aap.nl/en
- Animal Defenders International, ad-international.org
- Born Free Foundation and Born Free Foundation USA, bornfree.org
- Eurogroup for Animals, eurogroupforanimals.org
- Fondation Brigitte Bardot, fondationbrigittebardot.fr
- Fondation Franz Weber, ffw.ch
- Humane Society International, hsi.org
- International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), ifaw.org
- International Primate Protection League, ippl.org
- Pro Wildlife, pro-wildlife.de
- Species Survival Network, ssn.org
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