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[Animals] Despite being endangered, these macaques are still used for entertainment


Wassim

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In Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech's bustling main square, street vendors shout special prices for argan oil and wooden camel figurines. Smoke billows from food stalls and motorcycles come dangerously close to pedestrians. Amid the clamor is Cookie, a six-month-old Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) who wears a cream-colored lace cap that makes him look like a human baby. Around his neck is a leather collar connected to a metal chain that he keeps pulling to free himself.

Sharla Bonneville, from Toronto, Canada, visiting Marrakech for the first time, exchanges a wary glance with one of her friends as they pass Cookie and two other macaques with their keepers on a Friday afternoon in March. Ignoring the men's insinuations to stop and watch the monkeys' tricks, they continued moving through the crowd.

"It's pretty annoying," says Bonneville, referring to the chained monkeys; "My friends and I are not interested in seeing these animals in captivity."

Barbary macaques are native to the Barbary Coast, the historical name given to the coastal regions of North Africa. They are the only species of macaque found outside Asia and the only non-human primate that lives in the wild north of the Sahara. With fewer than 10,000 specimens, the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers them in danger of extinction, at risk of disappearing from nature within a decade.

Keeping a macaque as a pet in Morocco is illegal and can lead to a fine of up to 10,000 euros, except in Jemaa el-Fnaa, where at least 17 people have permits allowing them to use the animals as a tourist attraction. All this according to Zouhair Amhaouch, director of the Parks and Natural Reserves Division of the National Water and Forest Agency of Morocco.

In 2008, the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior proposed to UNESCO that Jemaa el-Fnaa, with its fortune tellers, henna tattooers and macaques, be included in the cultural heritage list. However, UNESCO told National Geographic that it "does not insist on keeping the monkeys, as the plaza includes many other forms of intangible cultural heritage."

"The number one reason people come to the square is to see a show," says Adil Ouadrhiri, who owns six macaques, including Cookie, and employs four keepers. "We're here to entertain people, and they want to see monkeys." Ouadrhiri's family has been working with Barbary macaques here since the 1970s.

In pairs, his caregivers do the morning or afternoon shift. Ouadrhiri says that each trainer earns about 100 euros a day in tips and that he and they split the day's earnings equally.

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.es/animales/2023/11/macacos-berberia-marruecos-peligro-siguen-usando-entretenimiento-turistico

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