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“I live in Ifrane National Park, and it lives in me.” This is what you hear when you walk with the Born to Be Wild scouts. Spanning over 125,000 hectares, Ifrane National Park is a forest landscape brimming with local wildlife. And amongst its most iconic animals is the Barbary macaque, an endangered primate found only in Morocco and Algeria. Funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Born to be Wild project is initiated by Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP) and executed together with IFAW.
Born to Be Wild aims to protect Barbary macaques by hiring scouts who patrol the landscape all day and night. Scouts who grew up in the region know the forest intimately, ensuring that Barbary macaques remain safe from poachers and their habitat remains protected from illegal tree loggers. When nighttime falls, and the forest comes alive with the sound of animals and insects, the park transforms into a dark cold place. Still, the scouts are prepared to carry on. They have the gear, field knowledge, and confidence needed to persevere. And the message “You are doing the right thing” continues to ring in their ears.
Alla Oulmaati, a Born to Be Wild scout, sat down with us and recounted his experience in the field. With great pride, he exclaimed, “For the past year and a half, I have been able to live in the arms of nature and embark on an empowering mission to protect Barbary macaques. Breathing in the morning scents, enjoying great sunsets, and feeling the heavy snowfall has been a great pleasure that heals my tired soul by removing all of the negativity and overthinking. I am joining a great mission to protect Barbary macaques from all the threats that cause their endangerment. And by the end of every month, I get paid respectfully so that my family and I can afford a decent life and continue to look forward to a brighter future.”
It’s not only animals that benefit from the scouts. During their shifts, the team engages with park visitors and helps them understand ways to protect Barbary macaques. Together, they discuss the harmful impacts humans can unintentionally cause wildlife (like feeding the macaques) and help one another feel empowered to make positive life changes. By the end of the discussion, visitors walk away with admiration for the scouts and a new sense of awareness. By protecting wildlife and educating communities, their actions drive positive action both locally and internationally.
A second Born to be Wild scout, Elhassan Tafern, wanted to share his story with us. With a big smile on his face, he explained, “How happy I am to do this work at my age! I am over 60 years old and found my happiness in the work I do through the Born to be Wild project. I find myself living in the best conditions, close to my family and children and in good health. When I was living in the city, my thoughts were always with the forest, especially since I was bothered by the loud noises there. The work I do is one of a kind and I’m glad to see that people are starting to recognize us and become more aware of animal welfare.”
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