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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details

Waters, Siân, El Harrad, Ahmed, Bell, Sandra & Setchell, Joanna M. (2019). Interpreting People’s Behaviour Toward Primates Using Qualitative Data: A Case Study from North Morocco. International Journal of Primatology 40(3): 316-330.

Author(s) from Durham


People’s perceptions of primates vary across and within cultures and may not be consistent with their behavior toward the primates themselves. We used qualitative data from semistructured and unstructured interviews with shepherds from 10 villages around Bouhachem oak forest in Morocco to describe and discuss shepherds’ behavior when they encounter Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). When macaques enter agricultural fields to feed on crops, mature men trap, attach a marker to them (a hat or a rattle), and release them. In contrast, young men and boys working as shepherds hunt and kill macaques when they encounter them in the forest. We interpret these findings in the context of the historical, social, and cultural factors that underlie these cross-species encounters. We suggest the different ways men behave toward macaques over their lives are related to their age and social status. Understanding that men’s behavior varies, and changes over the life course, we continued to engage positively with shepherds of all ages, sharing general information about the macaques and conducting community projects benefiting villagers’ health. This strategy led shepherds from six villages to stop hunting macaques, with the behavior of young men and boys changing to reflect that of older men. We suggest that gaining a deep, contextualized understanding of the human–primate interface and fostering intrinsic values for a species are effective in gaining communities’ support and fundamental to facilitating changes in people’s behavior in favor of conservation.