The goats of southwest Morocco can be seen climbing the Argania spins variety of tree, a species more commonly known as the argan tree. There is an abundance of these trees in the Souss Massa Draa region, which is popular with tourists as it includes well-known holiday destinations such as Agadir and Essaouira.
The fruit found on the organ trees isn’t edible by humans, but goats seemingly love the pulpy outer flesh beneath the tough outer skin. Once the low hanging fruit has been consumed, the goats begin to climb to reach the higher branches of the trees. Local farmers encourage this for two reasons.
As you might have guessed, the increasingly popular and hard to find natural resource of argan oil comes from the trees. The fruit itself doesn’t produce the oil, but the nut encased within does. Once the nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats (who swallow the centre whole), they are gathered up and used to make the sought-after oil.
This practice is effective but time-consuming. It also can’t be used on a mass scale, so other methods have become the default for producing argan oil… so why do farmers continue to encourage their goats to climb the trees?
If are keen to head to Morocco and see the goats for yourself, you aren’t alone. Savvy farmers have also picked up on this and encourage the animals to climb the trees when tourists pass by. The goats are happy as long as there are still enough fruits to consume and the farmers will charge a fee if visitors want to take pictures of the goats.
Many bus routes will stop at certain locations to let tourists make the most of the photo opportunity, although the farmers will also be waiting to pick a “tip” for the pictures.
There is a danger of the practice causing long-term problems and potentially damaging the trees themselves. The best advice is to keep an eye out during any visit in June, as that’s when the fruit on the argan tree naturally ripens and the goats are most likely to climb of their own accord.