Christmas trees aren’t the only trees with their own unnatural ornaments. Located on farms between Essaouria and Marrakech in Morrocco (with a few other locations throughout the country), goats are alarmingly attracted to Argania trees (yes, just like the Argan oil you’d find in your shampoo). In fact, they are so drawn to the trees that they’ll climb right up the branches and perch on them. The tree goats are getting increasingly popular as a tourist attraction due to their unusual behavior. But before you hop on a train to look at the scraggly faces emerging from the branches, here’s everything you should know about them.
Why are they so attracted to this particular tree? It’s not like the goats woke up one morning and decided on a whim to climb trees like Tarzan on his quest to find Jane. Argania trees produce tasty fruits from its branches and the goats will do everything they can to get their hooves on them. In this bizarre case, any regular person would assume the goats would be the bane of every argan oil farmer’s existence, but no, farmers are quite appreciative of the bearded animals for their climbing habits. It turns out, when the goats eat the fruit from the trees, they cannot quite digest the fruit properly, leaving behind excrement that are nutritional for the soil. The goats’ droppings are packed with seeds from the fruit, leading to more natural growth of argania trees. In other words, ka-ching for the farmers. Local farmers also pick out the seeds from their poop to use it to process the argan oil. Some theory proposes that it is the goats’ spit that produces the nutritional effects as they do ruminate (re-chew) their food before spitting it out onto the ground. Because of this chewing habit, other species like sheep can contribute to the argan oil industry, too.
Argan oil is rapidly getting popular for its high content in Vitamin E, fatty acid and anti-oxidants. The oils can be used in multiple ways from lotions, to shampoo, to salad dressings. Unlike other oils, argan oil is non-greasy, making it popular as a skin care product. It’s ideal for reversing the aging process (smoothing out wrinkles and restoring elasticity in skin) and treating dry skin.
While you may come standing face to face with the goats in the trees, don’t be surprised to find them hovering high above you. The lion often gets the praise for its fearlessness and bravery when it really should have been the tree goats. As mentioned, the goats will do absolutely anything to get to these fruits, including climbing to the highest branch. Tourists report having seen goats climb as high as 30 feet on the flimsiest branch like a Dr. Seuss book. It’s common that once the goats have eaten every fruit from the lower branches, they will eat their way to the top (and try not to stand directly under them, you’ll thank us later).
Finding the goats in Argan Country (home of the Berber people) is a pretty easy task. When in the area, ask your driver to take you to the goats and chances are, your local taxi driver will know exactly where to go. The driver will take you to a red clay area lined with argan trees and sure enough, with goats perched on the branches. You might find herders surrounding the area, monitoring the goats and picking up waste and spit to fish out the seeds. It’s also believed that with younger goats, herders will spend time assisting them to climb trees so they’d follow the footstep of their elders and continue the same odd habit. So don’t worry if you can’t make it out to see them this year, there will be goats climbing in trees for years to come!
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