Toukbal National park, Morocco - March 2009
Site description The site is a National Park covering 36,000 ha of the High Atlas, including the highest mountain in Morocco, Jbel Toubkal (4,167 m). Located only 60 km south of the town of Marrakech, the dramatic mountain scenery attracts thousands of visitors each year, many of whom climb Jbel Toubkal or trek elsewhere in the park. The mountain summits are often only slightly above the level of their surrounding high plateaus, which are separated by deep valleys. The park extends from 1,000 m upwards and therefore encompasses a range of vegetation-types, from forest to alpine meadow. Forest only covers 15% of the park, and consists mainly of the oldest Quercus rotundifolia stands in the High Atlas and Juniperus thurifera. Along the valleys, irrigated agriculture is practised and most of the park is used for extensive livestock-grazing.
More than 95 breeding species have been recorded, among them nine species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome. Thirteen raptors are recorded, among them Gypaetus barbatus, which definitely bred in the park until 1980. The Parc National de Toubkal is one of only two areas in Morocco where Apus caffer has been recorded breeding, and also holds several species with quite localized distributions in Africa, such as Rhodopechys sanguinea and Eremophila alpestris.
Conservation issues The National Park was created by 'Arrête viziriel' on 19 January 1942. Despite its protected status, the park has been facing growing pressures since the 1960s. Poaching has wiped out some species and overgrazing has destroyed or degraded much of the natural vegetation. Tourism has mushroomed and led to erosion of footpathsâ€”on some days 30-40 tourists may be found together at one time on the summit of Jbel Toubkal, in spite of the long and arduous trek required to reach it. To counter these threats and safeguard wildlife, in the 1950s AEFCS created a reserve for Ammotragus lervia adjacent to the park, and in 1994 enclosed an area of 1,000 ha for the reintroduction of Gazella cuvieri. Both these measures have resulted in the protection of areas of forest habitat which are important for breeding birds. In 1994, a management plan for the park was drawn up under the auspices of AEFCS. Further conservation measures required include the training of local guides; the protection of nest-sites of the rarer bird species, particularly raptors; maintenance of trails to prevent erosion; and the establishment of grazing enclosures to protect endemic plant species.