30 oktober 2009
Some more news
Also I heard that this year the catchers have started killing females whilst catching the infants. Until now I could never confirm this and most infants are being captured without any harm to the females. I am very worried about this news and wonder what brings this change in methods. Maybe the females are becoming more protective as a result of the heavy poaching.
When we did the training for the students of Mohammed V University in Rabat in April, we gave boxes of flyers to the National Park authorities to have them handed out to tourists in the park. I was in the forest last week and the fossil sellers, my friends and informants told me that they had spent the whole summer handing out flyers to passing tousrists. I am really happy with this and it seems like the national park staff has considerably changed their attitude towards macaque conservation since we had the workshop there last year november.
A group of organisations from Spain and Holland and colleagues working in the Rif have joined hands and are now working together on conservation and tackling the illegal trade in Barbary macaques. The group is called: Grupo de Trabajo para la Conservacion del Macaco de Berberia.
Last but not least, some sad news. A colleague scientists Nelly Menard has spent the last years doing a big survey in the Middle Atlas on the status of the Barbary macaque. Her results were presented recently and they confirm what Andrea Camperio Ciani and I have been claiming for years: the Barbary macaque population in the Middle Atlas is in danger of becoming extinct in 10 years time. Some areas have only 7 individuals per km2 left and there are not more than 3000 macaques left in the forest. It's time to stop focusing on research and take action if we want to preserve this species.
Training NGOs and Customs
I am back from the training we gave to the Moroccan NGOs and customs. I have very mixed feelings about it, but let me start by complimenting WWF MedPo, SSN and Charles Mackay from Heathrow airport for the really great week! It has not been easy to arrange this and I think it went very well.
The NGO attendees were a really inspiring group of people and it is great to know that there are people like this in Morocco fighting for the nature of their country. It also however has become very clear that they do not have a lot of support and cooperation with the governments and that Morocco is far from being a democratic country in which things can be said out loud in press or in person. This personally irritated me as I believe that when at least the cards are on the tabel progress is possible. Anyway, I will not go into too much detail and i am glad that some NGO representatives had the chance to sit at one table with a government official. I hope MPC can work together with the Moroccan NGOs from this point onwards.
The customs training was next. There were customs officers from all over the country, and that was good, although I would have like to have seen more officers from the hotspots Tanger and Ceuta. This was the first time since Morocco signed the CITES treaty in 1976 that a CITES training took place. I think many officers never had even seen a CITES permit in their life and maybe even heard about the treaty. Also, this was the first time ever that the Ministry of Forestry and Water/ CITES authorities and the Customs were in one room together talking about issues that overlap their work field!! We closed the gap with this training, but it shows how incredibly far behind Morocco is when it comes to CITES implementation and enforcement! But let's keep it positive, this was a start and I think good things will come from it. The customs officers were enthousiastic and what I really appreciaited was the fact that they admitted the fact that there is an illegal trade in Barbary macaques to Europe, that it is a big problem (as opposed to some colleagues in Morocco....) and some even claim that my estimation of 300 infants being smuggled out of Morocco annually is an underestimation. They claim that it is probably 400 to 500 macaques.
My demonstration on how to handle Barbary macaques when confiscated was a big success and people were very amused to see me struggle with a stuffed monkey on the floor. They found the information very interesting. WWF/ SSN and AAP donated a transport cage, a catching bag and handling gloves to the customs.
10 oktober 2009
Training, workshop and nomination...
I am off to Morocco tomorrow where i will be part of a training that the Moroccan authorities, SSN and WWF MedPo have organised. The first days will be for the Moroccan NGOs and how they can contribute to putting a halt to the illegal trade. The last 3 days will be for the Moroccan customs officers. We will train them on Moroccan legislation and CITES, on Barbary macaque biology and the illegal trade and how to handle moneys, what to do with them when they confiscate a monkey etc. I am very excited about this week. It is the first time this will ever take place in Morocco and I hope it all goes well. I am sure it's going to be a challenge as well.
So tomorrow I set off with a large catching net donated by AAP (thank you!!) and a stuffed animal (monkey style...) to do a demonstration....I will make sure to get some pictures so you can all have a laugh. I am looking forward to being in Morocco again, to get new ideas and new plans and hopefully to achieve a lot as well with my colleagues from Morocco, America and Italy!
Oh, by the way, I have been nominated for the Future for Nature award 2010 again, and fingers crossed this time, I might be amongst the 3 winners!!! But already the 2 nominations is an acknowledgement to my efforts and I am very happy about it!