The Tree-Climbing Goats in Morocco
By: Kimothy Wong / Arab America Contributing Writer
Morocco’s tree-climbing goats have recently grabbed headlines. These goats have devised a novel mode of transportation: they climb! These goats can walk practically anywhere because their hooves stick to the cliffs. The goats are attracted to the fruit of argan tree and, being nimble, may scramble to acquire the pulpy delicacies. Their climbing is sometimes described as a natural phenomenon unique to the North African nation.
Why Do the Goats Climb Trees?
You could see goats hanging out on the limbs of Argania — or argan — trees, chowing down on some green or brown bean-like fruit as you travel across Morocco. Many animals would avoid climbing the tree since it is prickly and has thorns, but these goats are in it for the sweet fruit. In reality, the cloven-hooved kids are persuaded to climb by their love of the fruit.
The goats are determined to get to this beautiful feast because the country’s natural animal food sources are limited. If they’ve eaten all of the season’s low-hanging fruit, they’ll climb up into the branches and eat whatever’s left.
The Role of Argan Oil
Argan oil is made from the nut of the Argania tree and is used in cosmetics and cooking. While you might expect Argania tree farmers to prohibit these hairy critters from eating the fruit, many landowners encourage them to do so for various reasons. Argan oil is the first of these.
The seed of the fruit cannot be digested by goats, no matter how much they enjoy eating it. However, the skin and fruit are stripped away as they eat them. The seed is then swallowed or spit out, indicating whether it is a clean, spit-out seed or one that has been “softened” by passing through the digestive system.
Because of the softening of the seeds caused by the goat’s digestive juices, the nuts can be used to manufacture argan oil.
Akin to Kopi Luwak or Black Ivory, two of the world’s most expensive coffees, argan oil comes from poop. However, if you’re reconsidering your argan cooking oil purchases right now, rest assured that the ejected seeds are typically used in cosmetics rather than cooking oil.
How Does Local Tourism affect the Goats?
Another reason you’ll notice goats in the trees is because of tourism. Farmers encouraged them to leap up to help “clean” the argan seeds. Still, now it’s more about attracting tourists to observe the unusually behaving quadrupeds and their happy chewing.
Many farmers charge for various services, such as taking photos or posing with the goats. Tour buses bring groups in to see the goats, and the tour firms pay the farmers a stipend or gratuity for allowing them to bring tourists through on their way to other Moroccan locations.
You may be requested to pay if you attempt to take a photo without paying.
How to Observe the Goats?
To view these critters climbing the Argania tree’s branches, you’ll need to travel to Morocco, usually via one of the major cities with an airport. Once you’ve arrived in Morocco, head south of Marrakech to the Souss-Massa-Draa region.
You’ll like seeing Agadir, Essaouira, and the fortified market city of Taroudant, all renowned tourist spots in the vicinity.
The Argania trees can be found growing throughout the highlands of this region, but for the best chances of seeing these bearded climbers, get off the busy highways and head into the mountains.
The Argan fruit ripens around June, so late spring and early summer are the best times to view goats climbing on the trees. Other times of the year can be seen higher in the trees, but sightings aren’t as frequent.
If you’re tempted to take some fruit home with you, keep in mind that governing bodies have stringent rules on who is allowed to pick the fruit. Instead, keep your images or well-sealed argan oil items as souvenirs.
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