“The turtles trip”, herpetological trip to north Morocco

Por Gabriel Martínez del Marmol.

Looking for in his photos of Morocco, Gabri missed more photos of the northern areas, so he decided to visit Morocco between the days 16-20 april. At first some friends could maybe join Gabri, but finally he made a trip alone.

We recommend you to listen “the song of the trip” whereas you are reading the trip report!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWenZRZxNXE

The day 16 he flew from Madrid to Tangier. It was late so he drove directly to the Riff mountains. In some wáter points he began to flip stones and find the first species: Natrix maura, Podarcis vaucheri, Psammodromus algirus, Timon tangitanus and Pelophylax saharicus.


The awesome landscape of the Riff mountains. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Habitat of many herp species in the Riff. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Natrix maura
Juvenile Natrix maura. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Timon tangitanus
Timon tangitanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

When the sun dissapeared he could hear dozens of tree frogs calling (Hyla meridionalis) and observed 4 individuals of the endangered European terrapin (Emys orbicularis), a metamorfic north African fire salamander (Salamandra algira), a painted frog (Discoglossus scovazzi) and a worm lizard (Blanus tingitanus).

Pelophylax saharicus
Pelophylax saharicus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Salamandra algira
Salamandra algira. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Blanus tingitanus
Blanus tingitanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Emys orbicularis
Subadult Emys orbicularis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Emys orbicularis
Comparative adult and juvenile Emys orbicularis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Emys orbicularis
Adult Emys orbicularis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Discoglossus scovazzi
Discoglossus scovazzi. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

It was very late and he had to sleep in the car a few hours until the sun appear and he continued the trip through Targist. There he could observe a dark tree frog (Hyla meridionalis) and some Wall lizards (Podarcis vaucheri). He drove directly to the Saidia área.

Targuist landscape
Targuist landscape. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Hyla meridionalis
Dark Hyla meridionalis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Targuist landscape
Lagoon close to Targuist area. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

The roads of the Riff are not totally good, full of curves and usually traffic. So he arrived to Saidia late. In a trash place he could find some amphisbaenian (Trogonophis wiegmanni wiegmanni), some turtles (Testudo graeca) and some Chafarinas skinks (Chalcides parallelus). Later he drove to Nador province, and he could find many Chalcides ocellatus, some Saurodactylus mauritanicus and 2 nice Montpellier snakes (Malpolon cf. monspessulanus). When he was taking photos, he could see in a bush a big Chamaeleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) sleeping. Later he drove to sleep in a hotel near Oujda.


Trash place, habitat of Trogonophis, Chalcides, Testudo, Malpolon, Hemorrhois, etc… Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Trogonophis wiegmanni wiegmanni
Trogonophis wiegmanni wiegmanni. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Testudo graeca
Testudo graeca. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Testudo graeca
Testudo graeca in hand (after this photo, the animal was released in the EXACTLY place where it was found). Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides parallelus
Chalcides parallelus, juvenile. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides parallelus
Chalcides parallelus, adult. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Saurodactylus mauritanicus
Saurodactylus mauritanicus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chamaeleo chamaeleon
Chamaeleo chamaeleon. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides ocellatus
Chalcides ocellatus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Malpolon monspessulanus
Juvenile Malpolon cf. monspessulanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus
Adult Malpolon cf. monspessulanus, detail. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus
Adult Malpolon cf. monspessulanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

In early morning he decided to make a short expedition to Beni Snassen mountains. In the road he found some Amietophrynus mauritanicus and a striped Psammophis schokari dead on road. In the highest parts of this mountain, he found a perfect place for amphibians (Salamandra algira spelaea, Discoglossus pictus) but he didn´t find adults or tadpoles, just a Psammodromus algirus and Tarentola mauritanica.

Beni Snassen
In the Beni Snassen. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Beni Snassen
Rocky areas of Beni Snassen. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Beni Snassen
Water point in the highest areas of Beni Snassen. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Tarentola mauritanica
Tarentola mauritanica. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Psammodromus algirus
Psammodromus algirus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Soccer field… Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

After some photos he drove to Nador province again. In a cultivated áreas, he could observe in a few space two skink species together: Chalcides ocellatus and Chalcides mauritanicus. Also some Eumeces algeriensis and 2 big Montpellier snakes (Malpolon cf. monspessulanus).


Mixed habitat with agriculture fields and loose soil hills, habitat of Eumeces algeriensis, Chalcides ocellatus, Chalcides mauritanicus, Saurodactylus mauritanicus, Malpolon cf. monspessulanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides mauritanicus
Chalcides mauritanicus, adult detail. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides mauritanicus
Chalcides mauritanicus, adult. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Eumeces algeriensis
Eumeces algeriensis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides mauritanicus
Chalcides mauritanicus, juvenile (reddish tail!). Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus in habitat. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus
Malpolon cf. monspessulanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Oued Moulouya, mediterranean landscape. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

A 4th individual of Malpolon cf. monspessulanus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Later he drove to Guercif area. During the afternoon he could observe some Bufotes boulengeri, some Agama impalearis, some Chalcides ocellatus and at night he found a nice Eryx jaculus. Although he had seen 2 specimens in Israel, it was happy to find this species in Morocco. From Guercif he drove to Taza for sleeping.


Oued Moulouya, arid landscape. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Testudo graeca
Testudo graeca, black head close-up. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Bufotes boulengeri
Bufotes boulengeri. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Arid area around Guercif
Arid area around Guercif, habitat of Agama impalearis, Chalcides ocellatus and Eryx jaculus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Agama impalearis
Agama impalearis species complex. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides ocellatus
Chalcides ocellatus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Eryx jaculus
Eryx jaculus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Eryx jaculus
Eryx jaculus, detail. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Eryx jaculus
Eryx jaculus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Next day, he drove to Fes área. The first priority of the trip was the legendary Chalcides ebneri, but between Fes and Karia Ba Mohammed he just found a Mauremys leprosa in a side of a road, far of any wáter point. Nothing under stones so he decided to drive to the Riff again.


Landscape around Jebel Zalagh. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Mauremys leprosa
Mauremys leprosa. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

After 8 hours driving through bad roads in the Riff he visited a good place for mediterranean herps. He found some Podarcis vaucheri, Psammodromus algirus, Acanthodactylus erythrurus, Tarentola mauritanica, 2 Macroprotodon brevis and a nice Chalcides colosii. After some photos he drove to a hotel for sleeping. During these 8 hours driving, it´s interesting to write about Ketama. In this place, some guys (4 cars that day) tried to make Gabri stop. They run fast and stop the car in front of the tourist people to sell them drugs. Victor Gabari gave an advice to Gabri before the trip, so Gabri didn´t stop and avoid these people. Dangerous drivers in a roads full of curves. Bad moments in a country usually full of friendly people.


Road between Karia Ba Mohammed and Ketama. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Road between Karia Ba Mohammed and Ketama
Another road between Karia Ba Mohammed and Ketama. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Ketama
Ketama landscape. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Podarcis vaucheri
Podarcis vaucheri, male with typical breeding colours. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Macroprotodon brevis
Macroprotodon brevis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Acanthodactylus erythrurus
Acanthodactylus erythrurus. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides colosii
Chalcides colosii, detail. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Chalcides colosii
Chalcides colosii. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Macroprotodon brevis
Detail of a second individual of Macroprotodon brevis. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Last day he decided to drive to Kenitra. In a lagoon close to the beach he could find a glass lizard (Hyalosaurus koelikeri) and a Moroccan worm lizard (Trogonophis. w. elegans). Later he drove quickly to the airport, and return to Madrid.


Testudo graeca between Riff and Kenitra. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Peninsula Tangitana habitat. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Typical Morocco transport. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Lagoon between Kenitra and Rabat. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Hyalosaurus koellikeri
Hyalosaurus koellikeri. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.
Trogonophis wiegmanni elegans
Trogonophis wiegmanni elegans. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

4 days, 7 new species for Gabri. A very interesting trip. He missed Chalcides ebneri, Natrix natrix, Chalcides minutus, Chalcides pseudostriatus and Bufo bufo, so probably he will return to Morocco soon…

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Serge Bogaerts and David Donaire for his help before the trip, and for Cornelius de Haan for his comments about the Malpolon specimens.