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

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Abstract

Reptiles are traded globally for medicinal purposes. Historic qualitative accounts of reptiles used as medicine in Morocco are numerous, but contemporary quantitative data are rare. In 2013-2014, we surveyed 49 wildlife markets in 20 towns throughout Morocco, plus the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. We recorded 1,586 specimens of at least nine species for sale in 14 of the Moroccan markets with a combined value of about US $100,000. The most prominent markets were those in Marrakesh, Meknes, Casablanca, and Fez, with the former two cites trading equal quantities of dried and live specimens and the latter two trading mainly dried specimens. Common species were the Mediterranean chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) with 720 specimens (506 dried, 214 alive) and the Bell’s Dabb lizard (Uromastyx acanthinura) with 428 specimens (247 dried, 181 alive), both traded in 10 markets, and spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca; 57 carapaces), for sale in eight cities. Over 200 African rock python (Python sebae) skins were identified and may have been illicitly imported from other parts of Africa. The turnover of Mediterranean chameleon and Bell’s Dabb lizard specimens after four weeks as measured by repeat surveys was 66% for both species, resulting in an estimated annual turnover of 1,520 chameleons (range 921–2,303) and 775 lizards (range 364–1,174). Despite legal protection and regulations locally within Morocco and internationally through CITES, reptiles are commonly and openly traded for medicinal purposes throughout Morocco. However, traders are not forthcoming in conveying the legal status of these species and restrictions on trade to potential buyers. Increased enforcement of existing wildlife protection legislation is needed to prevent this exploitation from the illegal wildlife trade that could negatively impacts imperiled species.