The magot monkey, also called “barbary macaque” or “berber macaque”, belongs to the cercopithecidae family and is present mainly in the Kingdom in the mountainous areas of the Rif and the Middle Atlas. Formerly present throughout North Africa (Morocco and in the mountains of Kabylia and Tunisia from where it has disappeared), it is the only macaque living outside Asia.
Their population in our mountains is estimated at between 3,000 and 10,000 individuals. In Gibraltar, the population (introduced by man) is estimated at 300 individuals. The Barbary Ape is listed as an “endangered” species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Due to the hostile places where it can live, subject to the cold and wind of the mountains, this monkey has been able to show great adaptation to its environment. Its fingers are shorter on all four limbs, and its tail almost non-existent, to avoid freezing. As for its fur, it is much thicker in winter. These primates are omnivorous, consuming plants, insects, fruits, roots, and small animals. So much for our margot monkeys from the Rif and the Middle Atlas.
Among the causes of the decrease in the population of this macaque in Morocco, we find, as for many species, the disappearance of its habitat. However, specialists and other lovers of this animal species of wild monkeys warn of the imbalance of their ecosystems caused by man (tourism, deforestation for the benefit of the wood mafias, poaching, man-made or natural fires, climate change, drought …).
To choose just one of these themes, the example of forest fires and particularly those that hit the Rif and Middle Atlas regions, it is clear that hundreds of Barbary macaques are prey to fatality after those fires that have struck the Kingdom.
Indeed, the precarious situation in which our macaques found themselves has worsened and the illustration of this is the forest reserve of Bouhachem in northern Morocco considered as one of the rare refuges of Barbary macaques. Today, this forest has gone up in smoke, prompting a multitude of national and international conservationists to say that hundreds of Barbary macaques are believed to have died.
According to the British NGO Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation (BMAC), one of whose main branches is based in Bouhachem, the fire in the Bouhachem forest has cost the inhabitants of the region their homes, their crops and a large part of their cattle.
The fire affected the fauna of the Bouhachem reserve which is home to several species on the IUCN red list of threatened species such as the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca), the Berber deer (Cervus elaphus barbarus) which was recently introduced in the reserve, and the Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata) as well as wood pigeons (Accipiter gentilis), birds considered rare in the region and highly threatened.
This degradation according to the statement Imad Cherkaoui, professor at Ibn Tofail University and member of IUCN, made at Mongabay (conservation news web portal that reports on environmental sciences, energy and green design, and features detailed forest information, including images and deforestation statistics for countries around the world), touched over the 4,000 Barbary macaques in the forest, 23 of them who have been found dead as a result of the wildfire so far. The lost macaques were all members of a group of 56 living near the BMAC base.
Sian Waters, a BMAC adviser, told Mongabay she fears the total number of dead Barbary macaques will increase in the coming days. The fire scorched layers of dead leaves and forest undergrowth, which the macaques depend on for food. Conservationists will assess unburned parts of the forest trying to find where the macaques might find food in the coming months.
Imad Cherkaoui also expects the use of forests to grow cannabis to hinder their recovery. He estimates that the forest will need a decade to fully recover from the wildfires. The Bouhachem forest has already proven that it can regenerate, being heavily exploited when it was previously occupied by colonial Spain, it has still managed to regain its vivacity.