Free the abused Moroccan macaques

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To King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Government of Morocco and the Moroccan National Tourist Office, please make the exploitation and personal possession of Barbary macaques illegal. This is an outdated form of entertainment that is cruel and abusive to innocent wild animals and disturbing to international tourists who visit your country. The Barbary macaques is an endangered specie and a unique animal for northern Africa and it should be protected by the Moroccan government.

In Morocco a cruel entertainment business is taking place at key touristic spots where Barbary macaques are being used as photo props. The animals are kept in inhumane conditions and are kicked, dragged, chained, caged and overall constantly abused for the entertainment of tourists. The monkeys are constantly pulled around on a chain, attached to their neck. They are visibly distressed and they are dressed in silly costumes and wearing diapers.

This animal abuse is happening around Morocco but particularly visible at the most popular touristic destination in Marrakesh - Jama El f’na square. There, a group of monkey handlers is pushing several monkeys as photo props, while others sit in tiny cages all day, sometimes in temperatures as high as 40-50°C / 100-122°F. This is happening right in front of the police authorities, who are frequently positioned right next to the group of monkey handlers. Mothers (macaques)  are often separated from their little ones and caged while watching in distress their little one being passed around the tourists.

Reports from tourists suggest that the handlers allow the monkeys to jump on people (without their prior consent) and then asking for money for a picture. The monkey handlers have also been reported to be aggressive and abusive towards tourists who don't want to pay.

The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is a species of macaque unique for its distribution outside Asia. In Morocco, they are found in the Atlas Mountains, where these monkeys roam freely. This is where they are illegally kidnapped from and then caged to be used for this type of tourism entertainment.

The Barbary macaque is an endangered specie and is on the IUCN Red List. Morocco is in the list of countries who have signed the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. As part of this convention, Morocco has pledged to to protect endangered species from over-exploitation. Capturing and using Barbary macaques as photo props is damaging for their conservation, as well as being cruel to the individual macaques. The support of the Moroccan government towards this cruel business is breaking the agreement of the CITES convention.

Here is what some of the tourists who have visited Marrakesh are saying about their experience on the square, after seeing the disturbing photos and videos on Facebook:

  • "I went to Marrakesh in September 2019 for my 30th and the experience of this really put a downer on the whole trip to Morocco."
  • "I visited last year and it was one of the reasons that I didn't like Marrakesh. They need to stop that, the police the animal protection needs to help those animals."
  • " I liked Morocco but this is one of the reasons I'd never go to this place again."
  • "Saw those monkeys as well. Me and my boyfriend were walking and they would just come up and put a monkey on us and make us pay afterwards."
  • "We just got back from 16 days in Morocco and saw the same thing. We are heart broken for those monkeys."
  • "I love Morocco , I’ve got some amazing memories there ... and unfortunately this was the one and only thing I disliked , hated ... so sad it is still happening ."
  • "I was approached when I was in Marrakech in January 2019. The monkey handler came up to me and the other girls I was with and asked us to pat the monkey. As much as I wanted to run away with the poor little thing, I flatly refused. As I turned away I felt him put the money on my head, and it was clinging to my hair. I yelled at him to remove the monkey and he wouldn’t. He laughed and I knew he wanted payment. It wasn’t until a few of the girls I was with intervened that he moved the monkey off my head. I was honestly so distressed by the entire thing - primarily because the monkey was evidently miserable. I really struggled with this experience."

Free the Barbary macaques, stop using them for entertainment and allow tourists to be impressed by other natural and cultural attractions in Morocco and not by graphic animal abuse.