The Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus, categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, is the only macaque species found outside Asia. Conservation concern for the species arises from habitat loss, overgrazing, cutting and collection of firewood and fodder, drought, and the illegal pet trade. Population estimates since 1975 suggest an overall decline. Macaques are considered economic pests in the Middle Atlas of Morocco because they strip cedar Cedrus atlantica bark. The Moroccan department of Eaux et Forêts considers the stripping a serious threat to the cedar forests and has suggested that the macaque population is increasing. The aims of this study were therefore to determine the current status of the macaque in the Middle Atlas and to assess the contradictory claim that the Barbary macaque population is increasing versus the conclusions of a 2002 study that the population is decreasing. We conducted 244 km of line transects from June to December 2005 in the Middle Atlas. Our results indicate densities of 12.1–28.2 km−2. These estimates are lower than earlier estimates of 43–70 km−2 and corroborate the results of the 2002 survey indicating that the macaque population is in decline. Human-induced habitat loss and capture of infants for the pet trade appear to be the two main factors driving the decline. We make recommendations to mitigate these threats.
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