Gibraltar is an awe-inspiring place between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Nowadays it is a British overseas territory of only 6km2, located in the southern parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Its beauty and nature is beyond any doubt, for sure. Apart from the amazing landscape and stunning sea-beach views, Gibraltar is famous for one monkey species – the Barbary macaque population.
There are several theories and hypotheses about these apes. It’s known that they have been brought by the Moors to these parts of the Iberian Peninsula. The monkeys were their pets during the 800-year Moorish domination (from 711 – 1492). But some believe that the monkeys are the holdovers from a population that is about 5 million years old. Well, if these macaques hadn’t been fetched by the Moors and if they were from an old monkey species, now the question would be how they reached these lands and how they were spread out in Southern Europe afterwards. One legend gives the answer and it goes like this. There is a subterranean passage that is about 24km long linking Gibraltar to Africa and monkeys used it to approach The Rock from Morocco.
Whatever the explanation, it’s a fact that these apes have always been treated well in Gibraltar because even the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill cared about them. He ordered that the species numbers be increased immediately after the WWII by “importing” macaques from both Morocco and Algeria because of the traditional and common belief. And the belief is that the territory of Gibraltar will remain British as long as Barbary apes exist there.
Thus the 250 Barbary macaques have become inseparable inhabitants of this British overseas territory and have been cared for extremely well. In the beginning the Gibraltar monkey population was under the care of the British Army, then – of the Gibraltar Regiment and now – under the Government of Gibraltar. The apes have always been supervised. Their welfare has always been strictly observed as well. Nowadays the costs for their food allowance (nuts, fruit and vegetables, olives, seeds, leaves, fresh water and so on) are well-calculated and are included in the budget. The health status as well as the body, size, weight, height, etc., of the Gibraltar monkeys are monitored on a regular basis. The macaques get a medical treatment in hospital every time they get ill. Moreover, they have medical reproductive checks and tests annually. And what else? 😀 When Barbary monkeys are born they get a micro chip and a tattoo as a means of identification. In other words, the apes are real inhabitants with a special status on Gibraltar.
As to the monkey themselves, they are tail-less and sweet, very friendly and not aggressive. They live in troops/packs and their dwellings are the dens in the Rock Apes. Although they live wild, they are accustomed to the presence of tourists from everywhere – Gibraltar, nearby Costa del Sol and other parts of Europe and of the world. The macaques enjoy their company and love being photographed. Sometimes the monkeys are too shy but at a time they play with people (by attacking unsuspecting visitors, jumping on their shoulders and head). Their usual trick is to jump onto the taxis driving to the top of the rock and “steal” & eat tourists’ food.