30 Oct 2014

Reconnecting the forest for Endangered Barbary Macaque

Barbary Macaque need more forest habitat in Morocco
By Shaun Hurrell

Story by Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund Mediterranean Hotspot Regional Implementation Team 

The forests of Ifrane National Park in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco harbour the last large population of the Endangered Barbary Macaque Macaca Sylvanus, which are threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation (as well as the illegal (pet) trade of infants).

Fragmented Barbary Macaque habitat:</br> here the gap is small enough to create a corridor (MPC)

The park consists of mixed cedar Cedrus atlantica and oak forests – optimal Barbary Macaque habitat. However, these forests have been affected by over-exploitation of natural resources and overgrazing by livestock, resulting in fragmentation. Ifrane National Park is now a mosaic of forest patches, causing isolation of Barbary Macaque populations. Some forest patches have no macaques left and cannot be recolonised due to this fragmentation.

For this reason, as part of the Conservation Action Plan for the Barbary Macaque in Morocco, the Moroccan Primate Conservation Foundation (MPC) and the University of Rennes (in cooperation with the Moroccan High Commissary of Water and Forests and with help and input from the School for Forestry (ENFI)) is conducting research into re-connecting the most important areas with forest corridors.

Endangered Barbary Macaque (MPC)

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Barbary Macaque is in danger of extinction in the Middle Atlas so MPC are acting to restore their habitat to save them. Their CEPF-funded project is well underway identifying habitat fragmentation in the Middle Atlas, mapping the degree of landscape connectivity, and choosing priority corridors where restoration is needed. Habitat restoration and improvement of connectivity is all the more urgent as climate change will contribute to the decrease of the range of cedar trees.

Barbary Macaque can also be found in smaller (sub)populations in other mountain ranges in Morocco and for example in Djebel Babar in Algeria where CEPF is working with AREA-ED to get the site protected as a National Park. This Endangered primate is the only macaque species that is found outside of Asia; the only primate species that can be found north of the Sahara desert; and the only primate that can be found in Europe (in a semi-wild population in Gibraltar).

The MPC team

Barbary Macaque females are philopatric, meaning that they stay in their natal groups. The males however migrate to other groups during mating season, allowing the spread of genes. But due to the fragemented habitats migration is limited, leading to inbreeding. Furthermore fragmentation causes the “crowding” of macaque groups as the forest area decreases, causing competition for food and large overlaps in home ranges.

With recent news that a dominant female has died whilst crossing a road, the need for increased habitat connectivity is ever more urgent.

BirdLife International - including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) - is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med).

Find out more at

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at