Contributions to Zoology, 86 (1) – 2017Vincent Nijman; Daniel Bergin: Reptiles traded in markets for medicinal purposes in contemporary Morocco
Material and methods

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Data acquisition

We surveyed the wildlife markets in 20 towns throughout Morocco in April to June 2013, April to May 2014, and December 2014, as well as the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco in April 2014 (Fig. 1). We selected the towns to include all of the larger ones (including the capital Rabat), important trade hubs (including ferry ports such as Tangiers), and two border towns. We visited 13 markets only once, but surveyed others up to six times over all three survey periods. The total survey effort was 49 visits. We identified and counted reptiles sold for medicinal purposes, and we gathered data on usages and prices through informal conversations with vendors and medicine dispensers. In towns that we surveyed only once, we selected the vendors with whom we held conversations (in French or, when initiated by the vendor in English) to represent as much as possible the variety of trade that was on offer. In towns that were re-surveyed, we ensured that individual traders were not included twice.


Fig. 1. Map of Morocco showing the towns that were surveyed between April 2013 and December 2014 for the presence of reptiles used for medicinal purposes.

While individual vendors were not necessarily able or willing to provide information on all species on display, unlike the report of Fogg (1941), we communicated with a large number of vendors and herbalists who allowed us to build up a narrative of the trade and the uses of reptiles. We made most species identifications in the market itself. However, over the course of the study, we were able to photograph a large number of items, thus allowing us to verify our market identifications. We visited the markets of Marrakesh, Casablanca, Meknes, and Fez multiple times, providing the greatest amount of data on the use of reptiles for medicinal purposes. We use data from these four towns to provide a more detailed account, including more detailed analysis, of this trade.

Data on the import of African rock python (Python sebae Gmelin, 1788) and Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus Laurenti, 1768), two species that are not, or are no longer, native to Morocco, were obtained from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) trade database ( These two species are listed on the CITES appendices and all import and export between parties needs to be reported to the CITES Secretariat annually. Morocco is a party to CITES, as are all countries in the ranges of the African rock python and Nile crocodile. We retrieved both data on the import as reported by Morocco and on the export to Morocco as reported by other countries.