30 oktober 2009


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.

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