Biological Anthropology Section
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
The endangered Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) of North Africa has been commodified for centuries throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Tourism from Western countries comprises the bulk of visitors to Morocco, where tourism ranks the second most valuable industry. Because of this demand, governmental exceptions are made for the use of macaques for tourism in Marrakesh, Morocco. This use of Barbary macaques contradicts wildlife protection laws delivering a mixed message regarding the legality of pet macaques. Moreover, empirical studies have shown the use of primates in entertainment increases the likelihood they are not seen as endangered. Other studies have shown tourist activity in Morocco directly increases the demand for Barbary macaques as pets and increased poaching in the Atlas Mountains. Here, we examine the Barbary macaque as a fixture primarily in Western, rather than Moroccan, imagery using ethnographic methods and examples from folklore, literature, art history, and archaeology. We argue that the continued exploitation of Barbary macaques in Morocco is the result of Western familiarity with Barbary macaques and an ongoing demand for pet macaques by tourists. More problematic is the unsustainable poaching of ~200 infants annually for the pet trade that are harvested from wild Barbary macaque populations. Thus, we suggest that Barbary macaque populations would benefit from ethical tourist behaviors through awareness raising and a shift away from neocolonialist attitudes towards tourism in Morocco.