The major threats to the Endangered Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus in North Africa

Threats to the Barbary macaque


  • Abderrazak El Alami Faculty of Sciences Semlalia, Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco
  • Els Van Lavieren Erfstraat 23, 6668 AD, Randwijk,the Netherlands.
  • Abderrahman Chait Faculty of Sciences Semlalia, Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco



The Barbary macaque; North Africa; population decline; habitat loss; illegal capture; macaque-human conflict; human effects; infectious disease risks; conservation.


The Barbary macaque is currently the only macaque species that occurs beyond Asia. It has been classified as an endangered species on the IUCN’s Red List and is listed in CITES Appendix I. This species is actually restricted to small and fragmented habitats in the Moroccan Rif, Middle and High Atlas, and in the Algerian areas of Chiffa, Grande Kabylie and the Petite Kabylie. A very large number of studies indicated that this primate is in decline and its population is estimated to have declined at a rate exceeding 50% over the last three generations. This article aims to review the major threats and challenges to the Barbary macaque conservation in North Africa. Data were gathered from research articles, scientific books, communications, thesis and PhD dissertations of the authors and of other researchers. Results showed that the major threats to the survival of Barbary macaques are habitat loss and degradation, population fragmentation, capture and trade of macaques, effects of human activities on Barbary macaques’ behavior and ecology, conflict with inhabitants due to crop raiding, the decrease in water availability to macaques, and infectious disease risks. Based on this review, we recommend several measures to reduce the likelihood of the Barbary macaque becoming extinct in many regions of North Africa.


Ahmim M, Labiod A (2020) New Data on the Current Distribution of Barbary Macaque Macaca sylvanus (Mammalia: Cercopithecidae) in Algeria. American Journal of Life Sciences 8(4): 47–52. DOI: 10.11648/J.SJAMS.20200804.11

Benhamouche N (2017) Les parasites intestinaux chez le macaque de Barbarie (Macaca sylvanus). PhD thesis in Veterinary Medicine, University Saad Dahlab-Blida 1, Algeria.

Benrabah ME (2015) Current ecology and conservation genetics of the Macaca sylvanus in Algeria. University of Lincoln.

Bermejo M, Rodríguez-Teijeiro JD, Iller G, Barroso A, Vilà C, and Walsh PD (2006) Ebola outbreak killed 5000 gorillas. Science 8(314):1564. DOI: 10.1126/science.1133105

Camperio Ciani A (1986a) Origine, evoluzione, speciazione ed ecologia del genere Macaca in relazione alle vicende geoclimatiche del Quaternario. Studi per l’Ecologia del Quaternario 8: 9–32.

Camperio Ciani A (1986b) La Macaca sylvanus in Marocco: sopravvivenza o estinzione. Osservazioni personali e dati storico-demografici. Antropologia contemporanea 9(2):117–132.

Camperio Ciani, A, Palentini L (2003) La deserticazione in Marocco: uso degli indicatori biologici nel monitoraggio della deserticazione delle foreste del Medio Atlante. Antropologia Mediterranea 1:57–68.

Camperio Ciani A, Martinoli L, Capiluppi C, Arahou M, Mouna M (2001) Effects of water availability and habitat quality on bark stripping behaviour in Barbary macaques, Conservation Biology 15(1):259–265.

Camperio Ciani A, Palentini L, Arahou M, Martinoli L, Capiluppi C, Mouna M (2005) Population decline of Macaca sylvanus in the middle atlas of Morocco. Biological Conservation 121:635–641. DOI:

Chapman CA, Peres CA (2001) Primate conservation in the new millennium: the role of scientists. Evol. Anthropol. 10:16–33. DOI:<16::AID-EVAN1010>3.0.CO;2-O

CITES, Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora: Appendices I, II and III, 2017 (valid from 4 October 2017),

Colin AC, Thomas RG, Tony LG (2005) Primates and the Ecology of Their Infectious Diseases: How will Anthropogenic Change Affect Host-Parasite Interactions?, Evolutionary Anthropology 14:134–144. DOI:

Cuzin F (1996) Répartition actuelle et statut des grands Mammifères sauvages du Maroc (Primates, Carnivores, Artiodactyles). Mammalia 60:101–124.

Cuzin F (2003) Les grands mammifères du Maroc méridional (Haut Atlas, Anti Atlas et Sahara): Distribution, écologie et conservation. PhD thesis, University of Montpellier II, Montpellier, France.

Delson E (1980) Fossil macaques phyletic relationships and a scenario of development. In: D. Lindburg (ed.), The macaques: studies in ecology, behaviour and evolution. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, USA, pp. 10-30.

Drucker GR (1984) The feeding ecology of the Barbary macaque and cedar forest conservation in the Moroccan Moyen Atlas. In Fa J. E. (ed.) The Barbary macaque: a case study in conservation. Plenum Press, New York, pp. 135–164.

El Alami A (2014) Distribution, démographie et comportement des populations du magot (Macaca sylvanus) dans le Haut Atlas central et leurs interactions avec les populations locales humaines. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Sciences Semlalia, University Caddy Ayyad, Marrakech, Morocco.

El Alami A, Chait A (2013) Comparison of the terrestriality of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) between tourist and wild sites in the region of Ouzoud, Morocco. Mammalia 78(4):539–542. DOI:

El Alami A, Chait A (2014) Distribution of the Endangered Barbary macaque and Human-Macaque Interaction in the tourist region of Ouzoud, Central High Atlas of Morocco. African Journal of Ecology 53(3):375–377. DOI:

El Alami A, Chait A (2015a) Variations saisonnières de terrestrialité chez le magot (Macaca sylvanus) dans le site touristique des cascades d’Ouzoud (Maroc). Revue de primatologie 6 :1–12. DOI:

El Alami A, Chait A (2015b) Roles of tourism in the local people opinion regarding human macaque conflict in the central High Atlas, Morocco. Revue de primatologie 6:1–7. DOI:

El Alami A, Van Lavieren E, Aboufatima R, Chait A (2012) Differences in Activity Budgets and Diet Between Semiprovisioned and Wild-Feeding Groups of the Endangered Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) in the Central High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. American Journal of Primatology 74:10–216. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.21989

El Alami A, Van Lavieren E, Aboufatima R, Chait A (2013) A Survey of the Endangered Barbary Macaque Macaca sylvanus in the Central High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Oryx 47(03):451–456. DOI:

Fa JE (1981) The apes on the rock. Oryx 16:73–76. DOI:

Fa JE (1982) A survey of population and habitat of the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus L.) in North Morocco. Biological Conservation 24:45–66. DOI:

Fa JE 1984 Diet of the Barbary macaque in the wild. In Fa, J.E., ed., The Barbary Macaque: A Case Study in Conservation. Plenum, New York, pp. 347–355.

Fa JE, Taub DM, Menard N, Stewart PJ (1984) The distribution and current status of the Barbary macaque in North Africa. In Fa J.E. editor, The Barbary macaque: a case study in conservation, Plenum Press, New York, pp. 79–111.

Fooden J (1982) Ecogeographic segregation of macaque species Primates 23:574–579. DOI:

Foulquier A (2008) Étude démographique d'une population de (Macaca sylvanus) Dans la région d'Azrou dans le Moyen Atlas. PhD thesis, University of Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France.

IUCN (2020) Red list of Threatened Species, The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK.

Joleaud L (1931) Le rôle des singes dans les traditions populaires Nord-Africaines. Journal de la Société des Africanist 1:117–150.

Majolo B, van Lavieren E, Maréchal L, MacLarnon A, Marvin G, Qarro M, Semple S (2013) Out of Asia: The singular case of the Barbary macaque. In S. Radhakrishna, M. Huffman, A. Sinha (Eds.). The Macaque Connection: Co-operation and Conflict Between Humans and Macaques, (Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects), Springer, pp. 167–183,

Maréchal L, Semple S, Majolo B, Qarro M, Heistermann M, MacLarnon A (2011) Impacts of tourism on anxiety and physiological stress levels in wild male Barbary macaques. Biological Conservation 144:2188–2193. DOI :

Martin LA (1950) La sensibilité du singe Marocain Macaca sylvanus (Linné 1758) au virus de Carré. Bul. Acad. Vét. 23:457–462.

Ménard N, Vallet D (1997) Behavioral Responses of Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus) to Variations in environmental conditions in Algeria. American Journal of Primatology 43:285–304. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2345(1997)43:4<285::AID-AJP1>3.0.CO;2-T

Namous S, Znari M (2018) Home range and habitat use of crop-raiding Barbary macaques in the Upper Ourika valley, western High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. International Journal of Avian & Wildlife Biology 3(1)36–39. DOI: 10.15406/ijawb.2018.03.00049

Namous S, Znari M, Siess J, Aourir M, Hichami N (2015) Crop-raiding Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in the Ourika Valley, western High Atlas Mountains, Morocco: a case of human-animal conflict. In: Africa Congress for conservation Ecology, El Jadida, Morocco.

Namous S, Znari M, Ait Baamrane M, Naimi M, Aourir M, Siess J, Mokhtari S (2017) Size and structure of the southernmost population of the Endangered Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus in the western Moroccan High Atlas. Oryx 51(4):694–700.

Taub JM (1977) Geographic distribution and habitat diversity of the Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus. Folia Primatologica 27(2):108–133. DOI: 10.1159/000155781

Unwin T, Smith A (2010) Behavioral Differences between provisioned and non-provisioned Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). Anthrozoos 23:109–118. DOI:

Van Lavieren E (2004) The illegal trade in the Moroccan Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) and the impact on the wild population Thesis report, Msc Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University.

Van Lavieren E (2008) The illegal trade in Barbary macaques from Morocco and its impact on the wild population. Traffic Bulletin 21:123–130.

Van Lavieren E, Wich SA (2009) Decline of the Endangered Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus in the cedar forest of the Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Oryx 44:133–138. DOI:

Von Segesser F, Ménard N, Gaci B, Martin D (1999) Genetic differentiation within and between isolated Algerian subpopulations of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus): evidence from microsatellites. Molecular Ecology 8:433–442. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-294x.1999.00582.x

Wallis J, Lee DR (1999) Primate conservation: the prevention of disease transmission. Int. J. Primatol. 20:803–826. DOI: 10.1023/A:1020879700286

Wallis J, Benrabah ME, Pilot M, Majolo B, Waters S (2020) Macaca sylvanus: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. e.T12561A50043570.

Waters S, El Harrad A (2013) A note on the effective use of social media to raise awareness against the illegal trade in Barbary macaques. African Primates 8:67–68.

Waters S, Aksissou M, El Harrad A, Hobbelink ME, Fa JE (2007) Holding on the Djebela: Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus in northern Morocco. Oryx 4:106–108. DOI:

Waters S, El Harrad A, Bell S, Setchell JM (2019) Interpreting People’s Behavior toward Primates Using Qualitative Data: a Case Study from North Morocco. International Journal of Primatology 40:316–330. DOI:

Waters S, El Harrad A, Chetuan M, Bell S, Setchell JM (2017) Dogs Disrupting Wildlife: Domestic Dogs Harass and Kill Barbary Macaques in Bouhachem Forest, Northern Morocco. African Primates 12:55–58.

Waters S, Watson T, Bell S, Setchell J (2018) Communicating for conservation: circumventing conflict with communities over domestic dog ownership in North Morocco. European Journal of Wildlife Research 64:69. DOI:




How to Cite

El Alami, A., Van Lavieren, E., & Chait, A. (2022). The major threats to the Endangered Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus in North Africa: Threats to the Barbary macaque. European Journal of Ecology, 8(2).