With pitbulls branded public enemy number one, youths in suburban
housing projects around France decided the Barbary ape would make
a desirable alternative as a fighting animal. They were wrong.
The adult ape shows very little aggressiveness towards other members
of its species. The male Barbary ape, however, often sees human
males as rivals. And because it knows exactly where a man's virility
lies, this is the first part of the body it attacks.
Even those who didn't intend pitting their ape against another
soon found they couldn't cope with their new "pet".
A young ape may be very cute; it is also a wild animal that cannot
adapt to captivity in someone's living room. By the time the ape
has reached maturity, its physiological needs and strength make
it impossible to handle. Hence many are abandoned and left to
fend for themselves, or locked up for the rest of their lives
in tiny cages.
In the late 1990s, One Voice was able to rescue several dozen
Barbary apes and transfer them to sanctuaries in France and the
Netherlands. Since then One Voice has received several requests
to rescue others. Sadly, limited resources mean the sanctuaries
are unable to take in any more apes.
In a climate of relative indifference, Barbary apes continue to
live chained or caged in city suburbs. In June 2003 an ape was
found in a public park in La Rochelle, and most likely was not
the only ape there. In Morocco, where the apes originate, the
press is drawing public attention to this problem. Barbary apes
are often unwelcome there because of the damage they do to crops,
hence some people don't object to the fact the apes are smuggled
into France. And yet Barbary apes are a protected species under
CITES. Native populations are found only in Morocco and Gibraltar,
and unless concrete measure are rapidly taken to protect them,
as provided for by international law, they could become extinct.