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Decolonising Primate Conservation Practice: A Case Study from North Morocco

Waters, Sian and El Harrad, Ahmed and Bell, Sandra and Setchell, Joanna M. (2021) 'Decolonising Primate Conservation Practice: A Case Study from North Morocco.', International journal of primatology. .

Abstract

Understanding the historical context of an area enables an incoming conservationist to reflect on their role in communities and to better position themselves both politically and socially within them. Here, we explore how outside agencies and institutions, including a former colonial power, have affected and influenced local communities who share their landscape with Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in Bouhachem forest, north Morocco. In the context of initiating Barbary macaque conservation activities, we interviewed representatives from local governmental and non-governmental organisations, city-dwellers, and villagers about the historical, political and social context of the study site. We found that villages around Bouhachem were politically and socially marginalised and discriminated against by the state and urban society. The existence of these divisions and the outside agencies’ simplistic view of villages as homogenous communities negatively influenced conservation interventions, because people resisted initiatives imposed on them without prior consultation. We found that Bouhachem villagers have been, and still are, excluded from meaningful participation in the conservation of the forest and this finding encouraged us to decolonise our own practice. We engaged meaningfully with members of the surrounding communities, and responded to news of erroneous stories about our activities by developing a project working in three villages which included all households. Based on our experiences, we recommend that all conservationists conduct historical and qualitative research to gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the communities they work in. This understanding should encourage conservationists to recognise their own social and cultural biases, and to decolonise their practice. Attending to our own position may help us to avoid underestimating and alienating people who view conservation actions through a very different but equally valid lens.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-021-00228-0
Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date accepted:07 May 2021
Date deposited:10 May 2021
Date of first online publication:26 July 2021
Date first made open access:23 August 2021

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