10 april 2009
Training Moroccan students & springtime in the field
It has been a very wet and cold winter in Morocco. I am back in the field with the WWF and GEA team, giving a training for the students of the Mohammed V University in Rabat (Faculty of Science) and students from the Royal Forestry Institute. The training is on Barbary macaque conservation.
It is such a pleasure to work with this group of young, motivated and smart students. They are the future of Morocco’s environmental conservation and what a team! After the theoretical part in Rabat, we have arrived in the Middle Atlas and are doing the practical training now. The students are learning about the degradation of the forest, the human impact, macaque biology and the methodology of how to do research in the field, by walking transects. The forest is currently extremely green, as it has rained a lot. There are even some patches of snow left. In November, when we visited one of the water sources that is isolated for livestock, there was barely water in it. Now the well is filled with water (see pictures). We have not seen many monkeys, although the groups that live in close proximity of the fossil sellers are doing well and have their first infants.
I myself have been mainly lecturing about the illegal trade. As I mentioned before, the fossil sellers have always worked with me, provided me with information about capturers. They want to protect the monkeys, as their income relies on tourists and the tourists will stop when the monkeys are there. Therefore, in cooperation with the National Park staff, we have decided that the fossil sellers are going to play an important role in stopping this trade by handing out flyers to tourists this summer. The students started doing this yesterday. This is a great achievement. Also a local NGO on environmental education (AESVT) will hand out flyers and commence an educational project for the local school children.
It is always inspiring to be in the field. I feel lately though that we are on the right track. The management of the National Park are finally starting to realize that the need for protection of this unique area is high, and together we are achieving so much. I am honoured to work together with GEA, Institut Scientifique and AESVT. We form a team of experts on every part of Barbary macaque conservation and strongly believe that we are heading for some great successes in the next year. Hopefully we can find funding for all the great plans we have so we can continue fighting for the survival of the Barbary macaque and its habitat.