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From Morocco to the French suburbs…

In the late 1990s, the press devoted weekly column inches to the fashion for Barbary apes (or macaques) as pets in city suburbs. While these apes no longer make front-page news, the trend is still very much alive.


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.

Wild animals

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.

La Rochelle

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.

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