In the arid climate of southwestern Morocco, in the Souss Valley the local goats have become adapted to unique methods of grazing. The famed tree-climbing goats grab their meals as high as 26 to 33 feet off the ground in argan trees. These evergreen trees, also known as Berber for the region in which they are found, are the sole species of the Argania family. The flowering plants are found only in this 8,000-square kilometer area of Morocco, and the oil from their seeds is quite precious. It is used for cooking applications in Morocco, for the dipping of bread, and can be found in some of the world’s most expensive cosmetics. The oil is said to have antioxidant properties and is used as a moisturizer for skin and hair as well as for healing wrinkles, acne scars, and burns. The trees are currently protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. As argan oil exports have increased exponentially in the past few years, the economic growth of the area has had good, and bad, effects on the trees themselves. In a strange twist, locals have used their newfound argan oil wealth to purchase more goats. However, the increased number of goats are quickly overgrazing the trees and stunting their growth. Argan trees may live for up to 200 years, and the fruit that surrounds the oil-rich seeds takes more than a year to mature. Farmers now hold the goats back from grazing until the fruit of the tree ripens, then send the hungry goats in to remove the pulp from the seeds. The goats eat the fruit, then spit out the seeds, which the farmers collect. The goats are extremely skilled climbers, and although the branches of the Argan tree are thorny and gnarled, the goats have adapted over the years to reach the highest and most precarious branches. It is not unusual to see upwards of 15 goats in each tree. The goats’ soft cloven feet allow them to cling to the bark and find balance. They have two “toes” and a dewclaw that assists them with grabbing and climbing. The site is quite popular with tourists, and there are several Moroccan tour providers that take day trips to see the tree-climbing goats. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Goats in Trees History
Goats in Trees: The Tree Climbing Goats of Morocco
- Goats in Trees History, Photo: aerostato/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of simonestorelli - Fotolia.com
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