In Morocco’s markets, conditions for wildlife are ‘ universally poor’
IN MOROCCO’S wildlife markets, animals are usually kept in poor conditions without water, food and shade, a new study has found.
This is because vendors are largely unaware of the animals’ needs, researchers found.
Much of the trade is also illegal, but a lack of enforcement of existing animal welfare laws means there’s little deterrent to end the trade, researchers say.
Current Moroccan laws also do not reflect the stated commitment of the government to international standards for animal welfare.
In Morocco’s live animal markets, a wide variety of wildlife is available for sale. There’s the threatened spur-thighed tortoise ( going for around $1, and the endangered Barbary macaque (
on offer for about $500 or as a photo prop. There are North African hedgehogs ( Mediterranean chameleons (
Egyptian cobras ( too.
But a common thread runs through this North African country’s bustling wildlife markets: animals are often kept in poor conditions without water, food and shade, a new study has found. and
Daniel Bergin, a researcher from Oxford Brookes University, UK, who focuses on the wildlife trade in North Africa, visited wildlife markets in Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Meknes, Tangier and Rabat in Morocco a total of 40 times between 2013 and 2017. Over these visits, Bergin’s team recorded the conditions in which animals were being kept: whether they had access to appropriate food and water; whether they were able to control for exposure from heat or sun; whether the material of the floor of the enclosure was comfortable; whether there was sufficient space for them to move around in; and whether they were able to hide from stress.
The team scored the welfare of more than 2,100 animals, and found that the conditions of wild animals that were on sale or being used for entertainment in Morocco were almost universally poor.
“Baby monkeys were picked up and carried by a chain that was fixed around their neck even though it clearly caused them a lot of pain and distress,” Bergin said. “Tortoises were often piled together in such a way that they could not all touch the ground and we once found a sack full of tortoises that had seemingly been abandoned in the corner of a market. The tortoises were desperately trying to get free, but there seemed to be no immediate intention to move them, even to put them in crates.”
What disturbed the team the most was seeing animals with no food and water, left exposed to the heat of the direct sun without any shade to find respite in. “These animals were dying slow, painful deaths, totally unnecessarily,” Bergin said.
The team, however, did not physically inspect the animals. This made it impossible for them to determine if the animals were carrying diseases or not, the researchers report in the
Conversations with vendors revealed they were largely unaware of the animals’ needs. Much of the food available was rotting and consisted of only lettuce and mint leaves, despite the animals eating a wider variety or different kinds of food in the wild. The spur-thighed tortoise, for instance, is known to eat at least 34 species of plants in the wild, the researchers write, while the Barbary ground squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus) eats mostly fruit, seeds and nuts.
“Vendors often incorrectly said that tortoises do not need to drink water, or that chameleons only eat mint leaves (they actually eat insects and cannot survive on a diet of only leaves),” Bergin said. “We do not believe that people want to intentionally hurt the animals, but they need to have a better understanding of how to keep them in good health.”