The Argania tree is not the most aesthetically pleasing plant in the world with a rough, thorny bark and gangly, crooked branches. But these Moroccan trees still tend to attract admirers, thanks in large part to the hordes of goats that can usually be found perching in them.
Grown almost exclusively in Sous Valley in southwestern Morocco, the Argania is a rare and protected species after years of over-farming and clear-cutting. The tree produces an annual fruit crop, and it is this delicious morsel that attracts legions of local goats who hop up into the branches to pick out the fruit. These memorable rural scenes mostly happen in June when the Argan fruit ripen.
Like an image out of a goat-cast wire-fu film, the animals stand on the impossibly precarious branches and get down to their seasonal feast. Far from just a single ambitious goat climbing a single tree, the animals tend to swarm into the branches in number.
Local farmers condone and even cultivate this bizarre feeding practice, keeping the goats away from the trees while the fruit matures and releasing them at the right time. There is also a secondary benefit to the goats’ habits which is found in their poop. After the goats finish eating the fruit and nuts off the tree, they pass valuable clumps of seeds which are then pressed to create the sought-after Argan oil.
Unfortunately, since the tree goats can be quite profitable for their owners, more and more of them have been brought into the area, causing a general decline in the health of the remaining Argania trees. Hopefully, the delightful tree goats won’t eat themselves out of a tree to perch in.
Know Before You Go
Although it is illegal, scammers will tie goats all day to the trees in the hot sun hoping to elicit money from you when you stop for pictures. If this happens, leave immediately. It's the only way to send the message that animal cruelty doesn't pay.