Barbary macaques

Illegal wildlife trade - Barbary macaques

Illegal wildlife trade - Barbary macaques

What is wildlife trade?

Wildlife trade, or the trade of live wild animals or their parts, can be legal or illegal, and both are highly lucrative businesses. Illegal trade in wildlife, or wildlife trafficking, involves poaching, smuggling or otherwise trading of wild animals or products outside the limits of national and international legislation.


Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most profitable illegal industries worldwide, second only to human trafficking, counterfeiting and drugs. According to the new EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, “different sources estimate the profits from such trafficking at between € 8 and 20 billion annually”, with the EU the foremost destination market in the world.

It affects thousands of species of flora and fauna, and luckily governments worldwide, also in Europe, are stepping up their commitment to fighting wildlife trafficking, by striving to strengthen current instruments such as CITES and coming up with new plans. 

In recent decades, the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) has had the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently seized CITES-listed mammal in the EU. Unsurprisingly, and quite logically, it is the most frequently rescued primate at AAP. We have first-hand knowledge of how serious their problems are.

Whilst the worldwide population of chimpanzees is 299,700 - 431,100; that of orangutans is 104,700 and bonobos number 15,000-20,000, Barbary macaques, the only primate species north of the Sahara desert, number only 6,500 - 9,100 individuals. Illegal trade, along with other factors such as habitat destruction, is threatening its survival.



      Berberaap Juma

The solution

After decades of neglect, the fate of Barbary macaques might be about to change. Based on the practical experience accumulated over more than 15 years, and together with our partner network, AAP has designed an ambitious, integral and comprehensive strategy aimed to address every aspect of the trade.

Enhanced international protection

On October 4th 2016 the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17), which took place in South Africa, voted by consensus to increase the level of protection for Barbary macaques by transferring the species to Appendix I of the Convention. In an almost unprecedented move, all range States and the main consumer countries providing the market for these animals rallied together behind the joint Morocco-EU proposal. The new listing will help enhance enforcement measures against trafficking in this species. The proposal has also received overwhelming support from the global animal welfare and conservation community. 

This great success was 15 years in the making, with AAP leading the coalition of international organizations pushing for it. In December of 2015 AAP’s Director David van Gennep had met with EU Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella and handed in more than 24.000 signatures demanding increased attention and protection for the species.

Read more about this in National Geographic.

Born to be Wild

The highest level of legal protection for a species means little if it is not properly enforced throughout the trade chain. That is the logic behind “Born to be Wild”, a project which builds on the success of previous initiatives addressing the poaching of baby Barbary macaques in Morocco, the training of enforcement authorities, and the rescue and rehabilitation of confiscated monkeys. It also includes actions directed at habitat protection and restoration and community involvement. The project is initiated and funded by AAP and executed together with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) among other partners. 


Barbary macaque in Moroccan market
Barbary macaques are still commonly found in Moroccan markets and squares. Better enforcement of existing protection for the species is one of the goals of Born to be Wild. 
Team of scouts in Ifrane National Park
The involvement of the Moroccan authorities is key for the success of Born to be Wild. In the picture, high officials pay a visit to our team of scouts in Ifrane National Park.