IFRAN NP, RAMBLING WITH BARBARY MACAQUES

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Morocco is an interesting country to visit due to its rich culture and history, with superb ancient cities and little beautiful towns.Food is very delicious, accommodation is pretty good and prices are cheap.Travel is also easy, with good roads and public transportation: bus, train or shared taxis.The latter is the fastest and inexpensive way to go.

Even though Morocco is not a famous wildlife destination, it hosts some remarkable animals.One of its most iconic mammals is the Barbary Macaque, the only macaque that lives outside Asia.It is found in the forests of the Rift,the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas.Other mammals that can be seen, although not in large numbers, are gazelles, wild boar, mufflon, Fennec Fox, Sand Cat, Least Weasel, Egyptian Mongoose, Striped Hyena, Cape Hares, European Rabbit, Crested Porcupine and the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.

The country is home of over 450 species of birds, which many of them are winter visitors.Northern Bald Ibis is the only endemic bird in Morocco.Some of its main highlights also include Moussier’s Redstart, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Tristram Warbler, White-headed Duck, Balearic Shearwater, Sociable Lapwing, Saker Falcon, Egyptian Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Hooded Vulture, Ruppell’s and White-backed Vulture.

There are 11 national parks in Morocco, being the most remarkable Souss-Massa, Ifrane, Toubkal, Tazekka and Tallasemtane.Ifran NP is one of the best national parks to see Barbary Macaques and Souss-Massa is the only place where you can find Northern Bald Ibis.

I planned to go to Ifran to see Barbary Macaques. I went from Fez to Azhrou by bus.Azhrou is a nice and peaceful town located 89 km south of Fez.From there i arranged a taxi to bring me to see the macaques.The trip costed me about 30 euros.

We went in the afternoon and it took me about one hour to reach the Cedre Gourard Forest, area located between Azrou and Ifrane.I arrived there early afternoon.It was weekend and the place was a bit crowded with locals.The forest was an impressive and unique forest of cedars beautifully covered by patches of snow.

We walked for a while through the forest, near the left side of the road.After 15 minutes walking we saw the first group of them.While i was approaching, the macaques were a bit scared and run away.I had to keep a distance and sit on the floor to gain their trust.

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The macaques were active feeding on the ground.This animal mainly feeds on fruits, plants, seeds and insects.You can see them digging to look for seeds on the picture below.

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This type of macaque live in large groups, called troops, led by a dominant female.Females usually mate with different males and males, unlike other macaques, show a great care for their young.Males can be very protective with their infants and they use them to establish relations with other males.

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This species is endangered due principally to habitat loss.Intensive logging, overgrazing, firewood collecting, land clearance and charcoal burning are some of the main factors.Illegal live trade, pollution and inappropriate feeding by humans also pose a serious threat for the survival of the species.

I spend about half an hour with them.Afterwards i didn’t want to disturb them anymore and i left them.

I was glad to see these playful creatures and see one example of matriarchy in the wild !!

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Next stop, Oued Massa, looking for the endangered Northern Bald Ibis and other birds !!!

See you soon my friends !!

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