a macaque encounter
If you drive up into the mountains and stop at a certain parking lot you will encounter a small population of a certain endangered monkey. The mountains are the Atlas mountains of Morocco, and the monkey is the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus).
I had the pleasure to meet these impressive and expressive monkeys on my way from the coast of Morocco to the Sahara desert. It took a while from when we first arrived at the forest until the macaques started showing up. One of the first individuals to approach us was a massive female (probably the matriarch) who came and sat right in front of us. I had to keep telling myself to suppress a huge smile (showing my teeth) as she picked nuts from my hand. After a while, there was already a group of them – and as the amount of humans also increased, I started wondering who had actually showed up to have a look at who.
I hope you enjoy the pictures!
This male had an old wound on his nose, which looked like it must’ve hurt when it appeared… The Barbary macaques are matriarchal, and the males take a very active part in rearing the young.
The species is only found in the Atlas mountains of Morocco and Algeria, and in Gibraltar. This makes it the only other primate except humans to live freely in Europe. In the mountains, they live through the warm summers and the snowy winters – their thick fur is useful for that.
This young individual was offered, and quickly grabbed, an orange. It quickly went high up in a tree to enjoy it. This group is used to being fed by humans, and if people want to have a picnic close to them, they shouldn’t keep their eyes from their food, or it might be gone very quickly…
It’s difficult not to look at these animals and recognise feelings and signs of thought in them. Of course we can’t know what they’re thinking, and what they’re thinking of us, but it’s sad to think that we are the reason that species like this one are endangered and may go extinct within our lifetime. At the same time, species like this one are lucky in that they’re close enough to us that it’s easy to get support for protecting them – other organisms, such as insects and plants, are not as easy to get sympathy for, just because they’re so foreign to us.