Making a Difference for Barbary Macaques in Morocco

Our WEEK 36 of the 52 WEEKS – Nature Paintng Challenge group was a great success with so many beautiful paintings of this endangered species.

WEEK 36 - Barbary macaque of morocco

WEEK 36 of the 52 WEEKS – Nature Painting Challenge

There was a lot of excitement in the air, and that excitement continues as the work of group member Charith Pelpola is being used on limited edition hand made tote bags, a project to raise funds for the NGO, Barbary Macaque Awareness And Conservation (BMAC).

I asked Sian Waters, Director of the BMAC, for background on the organization and also on this new fundraising project :

“Kitty was very enthusiastic about the inclusion of the Barbary macaque in the 52 Week Nature Painting Challenge and we were very interested to see how the group’s artists would portray the animals that are so important to my team and me.  I set up the NGO Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation (BMAC) five years ago in response to the pressing need for conservation measures to tackle the species’ decline due to threats from the illegal pet trade and wild populations’ proximity to humans.

BMAC has seen some great successes in northern Morocco, with our initiatives fostering pro-conservation feeling and even behaviour change in communities local to our study area, and, thanks to our education and awareness programmes, an increased knowledge across the region of Barbary macaques and the issues facing them. As our organisation grows and we expand our initiatives across Morocco, it is increasingly important that people outside the country are also aware of our work.  Having a supporter base in many different countries allows us to draw on expertise from a wide variety of sources, and we are often overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people far from Morocco who donate their time or money to help us continue our work.

Our experience with the members of the 52 Week Nature Challenge group was a wonderful example of this, and we speak for everyone in the team when we say that we enjoyed watching as each new picture was uploaded to Facebook and the artists’ newfound interest in Barbary macaques became evident.  We were thrilled when many of the artists went on to offer us the chance to use their images for promotional materials.

One of these artists was Charith Pelpola, who sent us his beautiful close-up of a Barbary macaque face to use for whatever purpose we needed to.  Just this week, we have had the images printed on to 50 limited edition handmade tote bags, the proceeds of which will go directly back into our work here in Morocco.  In addition to the benefits of this, the effect of having fifty people walking around with beautiful Barbary macaque illustrations on their bags will undoubtedly raise the profile of the species and inspire yet more people to help.  We are hugely grateful to Charith, to everyone else who gave us permission to use their images for our work, and to all the members of the 52 Week Nature Painting Challenge for putting so much passion and talent into representing Barbary macaques in their art.” – Lucy Radford, BMAC & Sian Waters, PhD., Member IUCN/SSC Primate & Reintroduction Specialist Groups,Primate Education Network (PEN), Regional Coordinator for North Africa, the Middle East, Spain & Gibraltar, BMAC.

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I’ve also contacted Charith Pelpola, who is thrilled with this new development. Charith had this to say about having his artwork featured on the bags :

“I’m a TV documentary-maker by profession, with a special interest in wildlife. Since I was a child I’ve been doodling some animal or another, and so it has been ever since. With a background in biology and environmental science, I have always had an interest in the awareness and educational aspects of wildlife conservation – and I’ve tried to use the medium of television as a method of conveying that message.

But there is something special about Art; about capturing that moment in time; that certain look and sentiment, which captures people’s imaginations and says more in just a few strokes of paint than any amount of film could ever do. And so when I had the opportunity to join Kitty Harvill’s Group, “52 Weeks Nature Painting Challenge” on Facebook, I was thrilled to suddenly be in the company of so many like-minded people and artists who shared the same aspirations. Every week, Kitty presents us with the challenge of undertaking a portrait of a particular endangered species of animal or plant, or even landscape –often in conjunction with a related conservation group.

So you can imagine my joy when Sian Waters from Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation contacted me and requested that she could use my Barbary Macaque portrait on a new piece of merchandise to help raise funds for the organization! It’s been a privilege and an honour – and has really encouraged me to pursue my wildlife art to greater heights!” – Charith Pelpola

My thanks to all the members of the 52 WEEKS – NPC and their commitment to raising awareness of the critical issues facing our wildlife and our planet today.