10 augustus 2010


Education project in Spain

The educational project in Spain was a large success. Els and a team of Spanish and Dutch volunteers managed to hand out 17300 sun screens and information leaflets to Moroccan people traveling to Morocco this summer. The choice for sun screens turned out really well, it was boiling hot in Spain in this time and while people had to wait in the blasting sun for their ferry they greatfully used the screens. Many moments the port of Algeciras was coloured with up to 50 cars that were using the screens. People used the time to wait to read the leaflets and to talk with us. At least 2 people admitted that they were planning on buying a macaque and we managed to persuade them not to. But mainly the reactions were that people were surprised that there are so little Barbary macaques left in the wild. We got a great deal of support from the people, thanking us for caring about the nature of Morocco and wondering why their government was doing so little to stop this trade. It was a very heavy project for all of us, as it was often towards 40 degrees celsius and we were working very long hours but the main problem was the fact that the port authorities denied us our authorisation to do this work undisturbed, whereas the customs and the Guardia Civil and all other staff in the port were extremely supportive and helped us a lot. This meant that we had to work "illegally" in the port and that caused us a lot of problems, but we kept bouncing back and i think we can be proud of the results considering the circumstances.
On the first location we had much more time to talk with people, which sometimes was a challenge when it came to languages but we did it. The reactions of most people was so very positive, people were thanking us for caring about Morocco and its nature, and were very open about what they knew about the illegal wildlife trade. Obviously we reached much less cars than in the south, but it was very rewarding work. And even I can now say a few sentences in Spanish.....
It was very hot during the whole period, which made the work quite tiring and we also ended up in the middle of a twister at one point, with chairs and sun screens flying through the air. Interesting!

The second location was a bigger challenge. We worked in both Tarifa and Algeciras port. I find it incredible how many different kinds of uniforms and authorities there are in Spain. We had to deal with them all, and most were very supportive, except for the port police, or better Policia Portuaria (PP). We by now know them all.... ;-)
The authorities in Tarifa port were ok, they let us do our work, although they couldn't make up their minds where they would let us work so we were sometimes in the middle of the road, holding up traffic, until the local police sent us to the port, who sent us back again.....and so forth. The locals in Tarifa were quite a challenge too.....and could be quite nasty to us if we refused to give them a sun screen, explaining that it was meant for people travelling to Morocco. In the end we gave them a few....but of course most were not expecting a Moroccan flag.....

Algeciras however was the real challenge. This is the main port where Moroccans take the ferry to Morocco in the summer and some weekends up to 5000 cars pass there. Perfect for us! We applied for authorisation which was denied. We were however not willing to give up because our work was also helping the port to stop the illegal flow of macaques coming in. The customs and Guardia Civil were very supportive and everybody else working in the port were helping us really much, even handing out the flyers and screens. For 12 days we played cat and mouse with the PP, constantly changing our location, outfits, hairdo, strategy...it worked well, although we got kicked out many times. We managed to not be caught on the busiest weekend as we chose a new location where they didn't expect us, and we were wearing the same bright yellow jackets as the traffic controllers. It was hilarious, at one point i was handing out screens to cars only 5 meters from the police, without them noticing.
The last Sunday however they found us again and this time they were very clear. Leave and don't come back or else you will get arrested. We gave up this location then.
I still don't understand why they didn't just give us permission. There were people with permission promoting a Moroccan phone company.....and we were not doing any publicity. In fact, we were even helping the port. To be fair, the PP was very lenient on us considering the fact that we ignored their orders over and over again. So in that way we should be greatful.

I had a bunch of amazing volunteers, thank you so much Manon, Kris, Esther, Rianne, Carolien, Erwin, Maria and Michael!! Without you guys i could never have done this and it was also good to have you around when my chaotic head stopped working. But most of all I am so proud of the bunch that kept fighting the port police with me, even if there were risks to that and brought this project to such amazing end. It was hard work but fun!! Monkey rebels you are, all of you!

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