But British-funded SPANA and Massachusetts SPCA subsidiary American Fondouk were both already there
MARRAKECH, Morocco––September 11 might be the grimmest of dates thus far into the 21st century.
September 11, 2001 is marked in the U.S. for terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 people when Al Qaida hijackers crashed two jets into the World Trade Center in New York City and a third into the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
A fourth jet crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as 40 passengers fought to take control of the aircraft back from four hijackers.
9/11 in Morocco
September 11, 2023 will be remembered in Morocco as the second day that the residents of the ancient, storied city of Marrakech and villages scattered for more than 50 miles in all directions dug themselves and the remains of at least 2,862 family members and neighbors out of the rubble left by a catastrophic earthquake that hit just past 7:00 p.m., local time, on September 9.
The first media mentions of animals in connection with the Moroccan earthquake were of four search-and-rescue dogs sent from the United Kingdom to help.
Measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, the Moroccan earthquake was the biggest on record to hit North Africa, and the deadliest since an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale hit in 1960, killing as many as 12,000 people.
The earthquake knocked buildings down from Safi, on the coast south of Casablanca, into the Atlas Mountains, and down to Tiznif, another small coastal city south of Agadir.
A September 11, 2023 aftershock worsened the damage and almost certainly raised the death toll.
Most of the buildings throughout the region were made from mud brick. As first responders pointed out, mud brick leaves little breathing space when buildings collapse.
Most outside help not accepted
“The Moroccan Interior Ministry said in a September 10, 2023 statement that it would initially accept search-and-rescue teams only from Britain, Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates,” the Washington Post reported.
Morocco appeared to have rejected help from the European Union except for Spain, just across the Mediterranean, in consequence of a dispute over immigration policy. Why U.S. help was refused is unclear.
Rejecting help from the U.S. and the E.U. at least temporarily excluded most outside animal rescuers.
SPANA & American Fondouk
Morocco is, however, served by two long established semi-indigenous humane societies of significant size, the British-affiliated Society for Protecting Animals Abroad (SPANA), and American Fondouk, a subsidiary of the Massachusetts SPCA.
SPANA raises the equivalent of $11.5 million U.S. a year for global activities, according to the British Registry of Charities.
American Fondouk, with about $19 million in assets, mostly in endowment funds, raises about $2 million per year, according to IRS Form 990 filings.
Both SPANA and American Fondouk are equine-focused.
What does SPANA do?
“SPANA works across Morocco,” the society said in a brief social media posting, “and we are committed to supporting the country’s working animals. A SPANA team is currently visiting the area of the earthquake to provide vital support to working animals affected by this tragedy, and will be developing a longer-term response plan to help animals and the communities that depend on them.”
“SPANA was founded in 1923,” the SPANA web site recounts, “by British woman Kate Hosali and her daughter, Nina. While travelling through North Africa as tourists, the Hosalis found donkeys, mules and camels who were malnourished; weak; buckling under the weight of heavy loads; suffering with wounds inflicted by poorly fitting harnesses.”
Initially the Hosalis worked by themselves, eventually starting mobile clinics that took veterinarians and farriers through Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.
Tunis, Tunisia, became the SPANA home base in 1927, sending out the first of the SPANA mobile clinics in 1930.
Eventually SPANA became a major international charity, headquartered in London, with current projects in 23 nations.
What does American Fondouk do?
American Fondouk, meaning “American stable,” was founded in Fez, Morocco in 1927 by Amy Bend Bishop, an American visitor.
Like the Hosalis, Bishop was distressed by the condition of the working animals she saw, at a time when as many as 40,000 donkeys, horses, mules, and camels worked in Fez along.
Bishop, a friend of then-Massachusetts SPCA president Francis Rowley and then-American SPCA president Sydney Coleman, donated $8,000 from her mother’s estate to help them open the American Fondouk clinic.
“I’m happy to report that the American Fondouk is doing well and we are still functioning as before,” current American Fondouk director Ahmed Khairoun, DVM, emailed to ANIMALS 24-7, but Khairoun offered no details about anything American Fondouk might be doing in response to the earthquake.
How many of what species may be affected?
United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization data indicates that the animal population in Morocco as of 2021 included 23 million sheep, six million goats, about 3.2 million cattle, 925,000 donkeys, 387,000 mules, and 62,400 camels. Probably a third to half of these animals are in the area hit by the earthquake.
Morocco is also home to as many as three million street dogs and probably a comparable number of cats, though the cat population has apparently not been censused, even informally.
Wildlife in the Atlas mountains, potentially affected by the earthquake, include the Barbary macaque, Barbary leopard, Barbary stag, Barbary sheep, Atlas mountain badger, Cuvier’s gazelle, North African boar, striped hyena, red fox, northern bald ibis, Algerian nuthatch, dipper, and Atlas mountain viper.
Well-known species extirpated from the Atlas mountains in recent centuries but still living elsewhere, including in zoos, are the Atlas brown bear, North African elephant, and Barbary lion.