Barbary Apes, Gibraltar
The only monkeys remaining free in Europe live in Gibraltar.
If you use the cable car, you don't need to look for them, because they will approach naturally in both stations.
Though living in the wild, the permanent contact with people, and the habits of being fed by them, make this area a kind of a zoo without fences, for a species that is fattening and mutating until... Yes, the usual!
Most people planning a trip to Gibraltar have heard of the famous and infamous Barbary Macaques that run wild on the Upper Rock. It's unknown exactly how they came to Gibraltar, but many believe that they were probably introduced during the Moorish occupation of Southern Spain. A moderately domesticated troop occupies a section of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve known as the Apes Den, which can be reached by car or cable car. While paying a visit to the only free-roaming monkeys in Europe, one should remember these practical tips: keep an eye on the kids, don't let your dog out of the car, hold on to your camera, don't bring snacks, and roll up your windows. The Barbary Macaques aren't shy, but if you're not respectful of their environment, they could start some monkey business. Legend has it that as long as the monkeys are in Gibraltar, it will remain a British territory, and this was reason enough for British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill to place orders that monkeys be brought in from North Africa in 1942. So far, so good
As if they were attendants checking on you after you arrive at the top of the Cable Car to the top of Gibraltar the barbary apes appeared even before we were able to get a view from the rock.
The barbary apes were believed to be introduced into Gibraltar by British soldiers returning from Africa. They are the only free living primates in Europe. When the population of apes was down in the mid 20th century, Winston Churchill is credited as the individual who provided more apes to Gibraltar.
As of mid 2012 there are over 230 apes living on the rock. While we found the majority that we saw on the top of the rock there were also several others to be seen down below the clay kilns and the siege tunnel. They are amazingly friendly and have no fear of humans however. There had been reports of apes visiting the town and even biting town folks that we heard. Many of the apes will simply ignore you unless you have food to offer. We found one ape while walking down the hill who seemed to sit motionless looking up the hill waiting for someone to come down to visit.
A short cable car trip to the top of the rock is the most certain way of seeing the Barbary Monkeys that live wild in Gibraltar. You are reminded constantly that these are wild animals, they have sharp teeth and claws and should be treated with respect, they can be unpredictable especially if they are nursing young. You can get some lovely shots of them with even the most modest of cameras. How quickly do the Human Apes forget the warnings of potential danger. I saw one woman go from giggles as she allowed a monkey to groom her hair to hysterics as it pulled clumps of hair from her head and would not let go. Warnings are there for a reason.
On the rock of Gibraltar you have the only wild monkeys in Europe.
They are all over the rock once you get up on top and it´s a pretty uniqe sight in Europe, where monkeys is normally something you only have in a zoo.
Just be a little careful as they can be quite aggresive to humans especially if they are carrying anything that looks like food.
We stopped half way up the Rock to admire the view of the town and ocean below. Immediately we were greeted by the Barbary Apes as they enjoyed climbing onto our bus and occasionally jumping onto the back of tourists.
These tailess monkeys called Barbary Macques being the only free-living monkeys in Europe.
I spent the afternoon building trust with a group of Apes at the Den.
When I had built enough of a bond with the apes they started to play with me. There was a group of adolecents who felt they could trust me enought to really start jumping all over me. I guess as I was wearing grey clothing they felt I was one of them. They really had a rough-and-tumble over me and I made sure to keep within my bounds by not making any sharp movements or attempts to stroke them. This ensured they felt they could spend as much time as they liked playing with me and instinctively knew that I was not going to harm them.
I have heard they can be nasty but this was out of the "Hot" season so they were less likely to be agitated and I had spend a few hours getting closer to them and leting them gain confidence with me. Never at any stage did I feed them. That would have made the playing impossible. To see a great video of them jumping all over me see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAI7GddkWSQ
The Barbary macaques, despite being called Barbary Apes, are monkeys. These primates hail from Morocco and Algeria (from the Atlas Mountain range) but were brought across and introduced to Gibraltar where they live freely and are positively thriving.
The infamous monkeys live at the top of the rock, doing as they please but do remember, whilst they are most definitely (especially the babies) rather cute they are most defnitely wild animals with very large teeth which you really do not want to get bitten by!
We took a 'rock tour' and our guide (who did not like the Gibraltans, which I thought was fair enough) was rather animated about the care or lack of care for these monkeys. He said they are not fed well (an arguable point if one considers they are 'wild' but definitely a point when one takes into consieration the probable lack of natural food on top of the rock and the fact that they attract vast numbers of tourists each year) but most concerning was that he said no medical attention is provided for the monkeys. His example was that a monkey could be hit by a vehicle (quite possible and probable) but will be left rather than treated. I hope this is not true but... I fear it probably is.
Anyway, when you go and see the Barbary macaques it is most likey you will at least have one jump on you - be it because (in the case of my children) the guide puts a nut on your shoulder, or in my case they see a fellow primate and start rummaging through your hair 'grooming' you!!!
Gibraltar is famous for its apes as the only point in Europe with wild – living examples. Well, that’s not entirely true. The animals are not completely wild, food and ocassional veterinary help is provided. And the Barbary Macaque is a monkey, not an ape. The apes live quite everywhere on the rock and one legend says that they came from Africa via a tunnel ending in one of the rock’s caves. The best choice is to see them at the Ape’s Den, which is located halway up the rock. A cable car station close to it is served upon demand. Large number of apes are also found close to the top cable car station. The little creatures seem to know where the tourists they can rob are. Of course, chances are that you meet them anywhere in the upper heights of the rock.
When you move close to the apes, do not show any food open. This advice goes especially for people driving with open car windows. The apes will mess up your car and do not leave until they have found the last bit of food. But as long as you respect them and show no reason for being a food-provider, they will leave you in peace and maybe even pose for a picture.
The next stop on our trip was at the place on the rock where the Gibraltar monkeys "hang out". We had already seen a few monkeys on the road while we were still on the bus and we were quite excited about this. This is amazing really, so many monkeys all over the place, some of them carrying their small babies around, some sat on top of the busses, a lot of them just sat on the road and frankly all over the place.
We had been warned not to take anything with us and to leave everything in the bus as the monkeys seemingly love to grab stuff from you. There have been incidences when they have thrown cameras down from the hill and there is no finding the stuff again. And there is a law against feeding them which will result in a fine.
There are ca 250 monkeys on Gibraltar and the belief is that as long as these monkeys exist in Gibraltar it will be under British rule. The Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic feeds the monkeys.
It is not quite certain how the monkeys came to live in Gibraltar, but scientists believe they are the last of its sort in Europe. One theory is that the Moors kept them as pets. They were there when the English took over Gibraltar in the early 1700's and are now one of the main tourist attraction in Gibraltar.
Visiting the Gibraltar monkeys is an absolute must!
The Barbary Apes or (Macaques) are a tailless species and in Gibraltar, are today the only free living primate in Europe. Tourists can get quite close to them up at the Apes Den. You will see then wandering around, sitting on the fence or hanging off the mirrors of the tour buses.
The apes are looked after by the government and are fed by the army. They are apparently all registered and even given names to keep track of the birth and death rate.
There are some 200 or so Barbary monkeys in Gibraltar. There origins are thought to have come from Morocco as pets when the Moors occupied the territory. There are two main areas in the territory which they are mostly found – around the Great Siege Tunnels and at the Apes Den or the Queens Gate
The Barbary Apes are wild. They are very accustomed to humans but they are wild. Be Careful! Visitors are warned not to take plastic bags as the Apes associate them with food and will grab any plastic bag. The apes are also very strong, so if they grab your bag, you will not get it back until they are finished examining the contents and get bored. The will also pee and poop at will, so be careful where you trod.
They are the only wild apes in Europe. They are cute, friendly and they like to jump on you but remember you can't touch them. Do not bring any food out when go to see them because it will be gone in a second. They are all located on the rock. Take your camera because you will love taking photos of them.
The one thing not to miss in Gibraltar is the tour of the rock. “THE HISTORICAL ROCK TOUR“. The small mini coaches take you up the rock stopping at strategic points for a look around and the chance to take photos. One thing to be aware of is the Barbary apes, if you have a bag with you they assume there is food inside and will grab it from you.