The Canopy Project
How Wildfires Leave Barbary Macaques at Heightened Risk of Extinction
March 1, 2023
The Barbary Macaque, also known as a magot, is one of the most endangered populations in the world. Barbary Macaques are extinct in the wild in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but can still be identified in Algeria and, mainly, Morocco. In fact, nearly 75% of the remaining population resides in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and Rif Mountains. Thus, Barbary Macaques’ concentration in the area elevated their importance as a part of Morocco’s national heritage.
These tailless, terrestrial monkeys live in groups and are approximately 24 inches long, with light yellow and brown fur, and a bald, pale-pink face. They are the only species of the genus Macaca living outside of Asia, and the only non-human primate living north of the Sahara desert. The life span for the Barbary Macaque is roughly 22 years, and males weigh 16-20 kg on average, whereas females typically weigh 11-15 kg. Barbary Macaques are an omnivorous species with various diets, including plants, fruits, lizards, and agricultural crops like seeds, stems, grains, and nuts. Their ability to demonstrate facial expressions is a unique aspect separating them from other species, and they are extensively adapted to their natural habitat, meaning any changes to their domain can have harmful consequences for the species.
Barbary Macaques are facing the dreadful repercussion of extinction due to wildfires damaging forests. Sidi Imad Cherkaoui, associate professor at the Superior School of Technology–Kénitra at Morocco’s University of Ibn Tofail, explained current climate changes and warmer air temperatures worsen the wildfires in Morocco. Wildfires directly affect the survival rate of the Barbary Macaques, as their diet relies on fruit and flower leaves which often get significantly damaged after wildfires.
The impact of climate change on Barbary Macaques has been evident since 1975. Once thriving at 21,000 individuals, the population is now declining with only 5,000 Barbary Macaques left in the area. In fact, they are currently classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and are on their Red List of Threatened Species. Deforestation, illegal wildlife trafficking, and human settlements are primarily responsible for the decrease in the Barbary Macaques population.
In response to these critical conditions for Barbary Macaques, EARTHDAY.ORG’s the Canopy Project continues to plant trees in M’Goun Valley, Morocco, helping with the growing rates of wildfires. The project is anticipated to plant at least 40,000 trees next year alone, which can positively drive the population number of Barbary Macaques up in the area by protecting their natural habitat and ensuring access to food.