Moroccan authorities reported 49 illegal hunting offenses since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown on March 20.
Rabat – Authorities in Morocco have recorded an alarming rise in poaching since the start of the country’s pandemic lockdown, beginning on March 20.
A recent press release from the Ministry of Agriculture reads, “The mobilization and vigilance of forestry agents, supported by several associations for the protection of natural heritage, have made it possible to repress several acts of hunting offenses [since March 20]: 49 offenses were recorded with the seizure of 16 hunting weapons.”
The crimes reported include: Hunting outside of the designated hunting season, hunting with prohibited means, hunting during the night, hunting in protected reserves, and hunting protected species.
Outside of Marrakech, a bystander telephoned local authorities on March 31 to report four people illegally hunting with dogs on a protected reserve.
On April 3, Morocco’s Tiflet forest wildlife monitoring and control authorities seized hunting weapons from poachers. Approximately one week later, Tiflet’s authorities surprised a different group of poachers in the middle of the night who fled, but were identified and arrested the following day.
Similarly, authorities in the El Jadida region caught a man from Casablanca, along with four accomplices, hunting hares at night.
In the mountains of Tafraout, belonging to Morocco’s Tiznit province, authorities entered legal proceedings against three offenders who hunted two cuvier gazelles and two others who were caught attempting to hunt on a reserve.
The Khenifra province and the Beni Mellal region have seen fishing offenses, where multiple suspects were arrested for installing nets and fishing equipment outside of the regulatory fishing season and under prohibited means.
Morocco has also prosecuted poachers after identifying them on social media through brag posts that inadvertently exposed their crimes.
On May 9, water and forest officials in the locality of Zemrane, near Marrakech, recorded a crime of capturing goldfinches. The birds were released and authorities seized all equipment used to carry out the crime.
In all situations, suspected violators entered legal proceedings for the acts.
Morocco condemns poaching, promotes hunting
Detrimental effects of poaching include the spread of zoonotic diseases, endangering species, and in some cases causing extinction, and defaunation.
Morocco’s High Commissioner for Water and Forests and the Fight Against Desertification (HCEFLCD) and the Ministry of Agriculture have historically expressed concern over the illegal hunting and capturing of animals.
Alongside attempts to boost hunting tourism within the country, the ministries have implemented measures to protect endangered species and the country’s biodiversity. Approaches include regulating hunting seasons and licensing.
In Morocco, approximately 80,000 Moroccans practice recreational hunting, which generates over MAD 1.2 billion ($125.6 million) per year in revenue. Approximately 3,000 tourists travel to Morocco annually to engage in game hunting. Last year, the HCEFLCD expressed plans to promote hunting tourism in Morocco and increase the number four-fold.
However, in light of recent complaints by local property owners who have protested the authorization of hunting licenses on residents’ land, and given the increase in illegal activity, the topic of hunting remains largely contested.