A proposal to ban the international trade in barbary macaques sailed through a committee meeting Wednesday here in Johannesburg, South Africa, where government representatives belonging to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Flora and Fauna (CITES) have come together to set wildlife trade policy.
The monkeys were added to CITES Appendix I, which means that all commercial trade is banned.
“We are delighted,” Raquel Garcia, head of public policy at Animal Advocacy and Protection, a Netherlands-based nonprofit that rescues and advocates for barbary macaques and other animals, said in an email.
Barbary macaques are the most frequently seized, live, CITES-listed mammal in the European Union. The monkeys are found in Gibraltar and the northern African countries of Morocco and Algeria—the only primates (besides humans) that live north of the Sahara and the only macaque found outside of Asia.
Only 6,500 to 9,100 remain in the wild, and they’re in demand in Europe as pets. An estimated 200 are captured and smuggled from Morocco to Europe each year.
The proposal, submitted by Morocco and the European Union, received widespread support from member countries. Tunisia, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Qatar, Mauritania, Somalia, Oman, and Comoros noted their approval of the measure during the meeting. No country objected, so the proposal did not go to a vote—it was passed by consensus.
It’s the first time CITES members have increased protections for a monkey species in 30 years.
(Read more stories out of the CITES meeting in Johannesburg here.)