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Gibraltar Monkey History

Gibraltar Monkey History

A popular belief holds that as long as Gibraltar Monkeys exist on Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule. During World War II, the population dwindled to just seven monkeys. Sir Winston Churchill ordered that their numbers be replenished immediately from both Morocco and Algeria due to this traditional belief.
A story tells that Gibraltar is linked to Africa by a subterranean passage over 15 miles (24 km) which begins at Lower St. Michael's Cave long under the Strait of Gibraltar.

Legend has it that the Barbary Macaques entered The Rock from Morocco this way.


The Barbary Apes of Gibraltar, Macaca Sylvanus, are actually tail-less monkeys and are an unusual and delightful attraction for anyone visiting Gibraltar or the Costa del Sol. No one is really sure how the only wild apes in Europe arrived in Gibraltar. The two most popular explanations as to the appearance of the apes of Gibraltar is either that they crossed via a subterranean tunnel from their native Morocco or British sailors introduced them having picked them up on their travels. Whatever the explanation they readily adapted to their new habitat and have lived, bred and been an integral part of Gibraltar for some centuries now.
Gibraltar Monkey History The Gibraltar monkey population was under the care of the British Army and later the Gibraltar Regiment from 1915 to 1991, who carefully controlled a population that initially consisted of a single troop. An officer was appointed to supervise their welfare, and a food allowance of fruit, vegetables and nuts was included in the budget. Births were gazetted in true military fashion, and each new arrival was named. Following the withdrawal of the British garrison, the Government of Gibraltar took over responsibility for the monkeys.
Currently the monkeys are managed by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) and veterinarian expertise is provided by the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic (GVC). The macaques receive a daily supply of fresh water and vegetables, fruit and seeds as supplement to natural food resources (leaves, olives, roots, seeds and flowers).

The animals are caught on a regular basis in order to check their health status. Additionally, body size, weight and several other measures are taken. Finally, the animals are given a tattoo number and a micro chip as a means of identification. But tattoos are not the only way to recognise animals. Barbary macaques quite often show particular marks, scars or spots which can be used as distinguishing features. All monkeys are photographed and the pictures together with individual characteristics catalogued.

Gibraltar Monkey History

Once every year, a census is conducted in order to actualise data and monitor reproductive success of the whole population. These demographic data are important for the management of the population generally, but also when it comes to the point of fertility regulation in selected individuals. Since Barbary macaque females reproduce well, the population on Gibraltar is steadily increasing, which in turn puts pressure on the limited habitat. Population control is therefore an essential part of effective management of the Gibraltar colony.


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