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World Cup: Algeria’s Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus)

Posted on Jun 23, 2010 by in Primates, Theme Weeks | 5 comments

Macaca sylvanus

Number 0322

The World Cup is swinging right along, and we’re celebrating with a look at the mammals of the 32 countries competing in the tournament. Today we’re in Algeria, where they have these monkeys, see, the Barbary macaques. They live in the forests of Algeria and Morocco, and there’s also a population in Gibraltar, making them the only primates that live freely in Europe other than humans. Male macaques have a most endearing bonding ritual. In order to make friends with other males, a male macaque will cuddle with a baby, his own or someone else’s. When one male is holding a baby, other males will approach him, embrace him, and make googoo faces at the infant alongside him. Males who do it right find that holding a baby can really help their social status. Isn’t that funny? But like human infants, baby macaques can be unrelenting when they cry, and the downside for the baby-holding males is that they experience higher stress levels than males who don’t hold babies.

Today Group C played its final two games in the World Cup. Each group’s last two games are played simultaneously because otherwise, teams that knew the outcome of an earlier game would have incentive to throw their own game in one way or another. FIFA started structuring the World Cup that way in 1986, and Algeria was involved in the events that caused the change. In 1982, Algeria “shocked the world” when they beat reigning champions West Germany. In their group, which also included Austria and Chile, it turned out that in the final game, if West Germany beat Austria, both teams would be guaranteed to continue on to the next round, while a different outcome would have sent Algeria on. So in “the dodgiest game in football history,” West Germany scored a goal very early on and the two teams spent the rest of the game fooling around while their fans booed and even burned a flag. Algeria complained, and while FIFA declined to do anything about it at the time, they did change the rules for the next World Cup.

This World Cup was only the third that Algeria made it to. They had their glory days in the 1980s, qualifying for both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, but then they endured a long slump known as “the walk through the desert,” coming back into their own in 2008. Today Algeria, whose nickname is the Fennecs, lost to the U.S., and England beat Slovenia, and so the U.S. and England are continuing on to the Round of 16.

Coco drew such an amazing Barbary macaque:

Barbary macaque by Coco, age 11


  1. Two great drawings and a terrific write-up, see?

    I love your macaque profile, Jennifer. It has such a great structure to it, and really shows off the look of the animal better than a front view would have, I think. You need to do more like this!

    Coco, your macaque drawing is ELECTRIC! It’s glowing, it’s so full of life and energy! Don’t stop with the mammal drawings, because they’re really something special!

    Nice job, both of you!

  2. Dear Dad
    Thanks for the comment.I really like it.My arm hurts!

  3. Thanks, Ted. I’m glad you liked our macaques! I agree that Coco’s drawing is electric. She was in a bad mood when she drew it (as you know), and that may have come through in the acid colors, but it works.

  4. Great drawing, Coco. I really like the colors you used. Jenn, I agree with Ted–I like the profile drawing. Very nice.

  5. Thanks, Grace! I like it too, but I just do the best I can. Some days they come out better, like this one.

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