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Field ornithologist Rachid El Khamlichi

Rachid El Khamlichi is an avid wildlife enthusiast and ornithologist who has a keen interest in the birds and wildlife of Morocco and especially of the Rif Mountains in the north.

He is an active member of associations in both shores of the Strait of Gibraltar: COCN (Colectivo Ornitologico Cigueña Negra, Tarifa, Spain) and ADEMN (Association pour le Développement et l’Environnement aux Montagnes du Nord, Chefchaouen, Morocco). He is also a member of “Protejamos Tetuan y Sus Alrededores” (Protesa/Ademn), which is a group active in the environmental awareness among the general public and schoolchildren, with the emphasis on taking the action themselves. He is also a member of GREPOM (Groupe de Recherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux du Maroc) since 2012.

His interest in nature and its conservation is shown (among other) in the active monitoring of birds and their habitats in Smir wetland, Oued el Maleh, Oued Martil wetland and surrounding areas. His long-term observations in these two wetlands were summarised in an article “Humedales marroquíes”, published in the multi-authored monograph about the coastal wetlands of the Strait of Gibraltar (Monográfico humedales costeros del Estrecho de Gibraltar), published in the ornithological magazine of COCN, Cazalla.

Recently, he has participated in a meeting about “El Voluntariado Ambiental dentro de la Reserva de la Biosfera Mediterráneo (España – Marruecos)”, organised by Consejería de Medio Ambiente of the Junta de Andalucía. The destruction of Smir wetland was brought into the discussion again.

In Crónicas de un Pato (“Chronicles of a duck”) he speaks in the name of a duck that tells the sad story of the destruction of Smir wetland by the greed of the tourism developers. Please click through to read the ‘chrnicles’ and see some beautiful photos and unfortunately some sad photos as well about this wetland.

Los habitantes desconocidos de Tetuán (“The unknown inhabitants of Tétouan”, in reference to birds) is a short video filmed by Rachid in 2010 at several locations around Tétouan (Martil, Jbel El-Haouz and Smir wetland). The video featured many birds of the region. The aim of the video was to increase environmental awareness and education about the environmental problems of the region of Tétouan especially the destruction of Smir wetland and the pollution of Oued Martil.

Wildlife rehabilitation

During his outing to the nature he encountered, on several occasions, injured and/or sick birds and other animals. In each case, he takes care of the animal until its recovery. After care and rehabilitation (which takes from days to weeks) he takes the birds back to nature to set them free. Here are some examples:

  • On his visit to Jbel Dersa (Tétouan) with Abdelhak Elbanak on 20 May 2011, he found a Black Kite (Milvus migrans) in a very poor state (it bleeds from the beak and the eyes, probably caused by poisoning in a rubbish dump). He took it at his house and treated him, within three days it was able to fly again.
  • On 6 June 2009, he found a Spanish-ringed female Black Kite (ring n° 7058297, Icona – Madrid) held by a person near Tétouan. The bird had difficulty flying, and was so weak that it could hardly move. During the rehabilitation, it started to gain weight and to recover slowly. She was released on 16 august 2009 at small woodland near Oued el-Maleh, Martil.
  • In April 2009, he found a Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) injured in his wing on the road to Cherchaouen. He took it home to recover as he does usually. In this interview with the TV program “Thalassa: le magazine de la mer” presented on the channel ‘France 3’, Rachid began his talking about the “absence of wildlife rehabilitation centres in the region” and showed to the TV crew the Booted Eagle that was recovering in his house (they moved then to Smir wetland to speak about its problems).
  • In May 2005, he found a broken-legged Golden Jackal at Jbel El Haouz near Tétouan. He rescued it and took it to a veterinary in Tangier where it was treated. He took it to his house and after a long period of recovery, he released it in the same place where it was found.
Rachid examining a sick Black Kite (Milvus migrans) at Jbel Derssa, May 2011(Abdelhak Elbanak).
Rachid examining a sick Black Kite (Milvus migrans) at Jbel Derssa, May 2011(Abdelhak Elbanak).

Rachid’s papers

  • Amezian, M., El Khamlichi, R. & Elbanak, A. 2012. Breeding of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus in the mixed heronry adjacent to Smir marshes, northern Morocco. Alauda 80: 33-38.
  • El Khamlichi, R. 2011. Humedales marroquíes. In: Colectivo Ornitológico Cigüeña Negra (ed). Monográfico humedales costeros del Estrecho de Gibraltar. Cazalla (Revista ornitológica) 3: 41-48.
  • El Khamlichi, R. & Amezian, M. 2010. Observations d’Océanites culblancs (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) sur la côte méditerranéenne marocaine. Go-South Bull. 7: 89-91.


I first wanted to write about some of the raptors that Rachid helped and rehabilitated, and then thought that I should include some other information about his activities which are by no means complete.

6 thoughts on “Field ornithologist Rachid El Khamlichi”

  1. StourbridgeRantBoy

    Excellent article and a nice insight to what local birders are up to in Maroc – with regard to the poisoning……I spent a couple of weeks on the Atlantic coast this Spring, i was told at Essaouira that poison is put out just before the tourist season to kill the local dogs! – This was from a visiting team of vets who visit Ess annually for the purpose of providing treating the local animals.

    Laurie –

  2. Thank Laurie, for your interesting comment. The poisoning is a big problem in Morocco as we still using poisons that are illegal in our own law because of the absence of law enforcement. We have already suffered a lot from the poisoning in the past, we lost our vultures and many other birds that are partially scavengers declined as well. We only hope that this trend will reverse.


  3. Excellente initiative de votre part que de faire le portrait d'acteurs (connus ou inconnus) marocains engagés dans le long, très long, combat pour la préservation de la biodiversité ! Il y a donc encore de l'espoir… Merci de tout coeur ! D'autres portraits bienvenus de temps à autre…

  4. Merci Frédéric pour votre remarque et encouragements. Oui, effectivement il y a encore de l’espoir, il faut que de le nourrir et encourager les porteurs de cet espoir.

  5. Hi.
    I am currently looking for wildlife rehab centres to volunteer at in Morocco, and am having trouble.
    My wife and I are both experienced zoo keepers/rehab workers, do you have any advice on where to look for work, with your organisation or otherwise.

  6. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your interest. Unfortunately we don’t have yet any wildlife rehabilitation centre in Morocco (to the best of my knowledge). However there is an association called “La Société Protectrice des Animaux et de la Nature” (SPANA /Morocco) which is the daughter-society for the UK based “Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad”, and they have a voluntary programme which you can find out more about it in this link: http://www.spana.org.ma/

    Best wishes,

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