Barbary Macaques To Get Highest Protection Level To Fight Pet Trade

There are only around 200 Barbary macaques in Gibraltar, Europe's only wild monkey population. Elzbieta Szulmajer/Shutterstock

There’s more good news coming out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) held in Johannesburg this week, and this time it's the Barbary macaques' turn to get a well-earned reprieve.

CITES has voted unanimously to ban the international trade of these monkeys, which were officially listed as endangered in 2008 and are often stolen as infants and sold as pets throughout Morocco and Europe.

Barbary macaques are pretty unique. They are Europe’s only wild non-human primate, with a population of around 200 on the Rock of Gibraltar. They also have the dubious honor of being the most seized, alive, CITES-listed mammal in Europe.

They are also the only macaque species found in Africa, and the only primate found north of the Sahara, with an estimated 6,500 to 9,000 found in isolated populations across Algeria and Morocco. They were added to the endangered list after a study revealed their population had declined by 50 percent in 24 years.

An estimated 200 babies are stolen from the wild each year, where, if they can avoid being sold into performance slavery for the tourist trade, they are sold as pets for around €450 ($500) in Morocco. In Europe, where there are an estimated 3,000 macaques being kept as pets, they can fetch up to €2,000 ($2,240).

It was actually Morocco, with support from the EU, who proposed the ban on trading these monkeys at the meeting, as they both fear for the dwindling populations in the wild. The proposal made it through, resulting in the macaques being added to the CITES Appendix I – the strictest level possible – which means that all commercial trade of them is banned.

"The adoption of the joint proposal from the EU and Morocco would be a key next step in protecting a species for which the EU is unfortunately a key destination market,” said MEP Gerben Jan Gerbrandy, who is leading the European Parliament delegation at CITES, according to the BBC. “Now we have to make sure that any agreement is properly and coherently enforced to the fullest effect. That is where the real difference will be made."

It’s the first time in 30 years that CITES considered raising the level of protection on a monkey species. After this week’s rejection of the proposal to resume the ivory trade and the ban on all trafficking of pangolins, it appears the world’s governments are serious about taking action against the rise in poaching and trafficking and the perilous decline of many endangered creatures.

There are still six days left of the wildlife summit, and we’re sure we’re not alone in waiting excitedly to see what other positive action is going to come out of it. 

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