Monkeys / Apes of Gibraltar
World famous, and perhaps Gibraltar's most important tourist attraction, the Barbary Apes of Gibraltar (Macaca Sylvanus), are actually tail-less monkeys. These Apes of Gibraltar are sociable characters are the only wild primates in Europe and have lived on The Rock for hundreds of years, charming tourists with their delightful antics and curious natures. Legend has it that when the apes of Gibraltar leave, Gibraltar will cease to be British.
Natives of North Africa, their presence in Gibraltar probably dates from the early days of the British garrison when it is presumed that they were imported as pets or even game, inevitably finding the rough limestone cliffs and scrub vegetation a congenial habitat.
In fact, many legends have grown up around the apes of Gibraltar. One is that they travelled from their native Morocco via a subterranean tunnel starting at St Michael's Cave leading down underneath the strait.
During the last war, natural causes had diminished the ape numbers alarmingly, and they were in danger of extinction on the Rock. Fortunately, Sir Winston Churchill took a personal interest and additional animals were imported from Morocco.
Today, in addition to the pack resident at Apes Den, there are five other packs living wild on the steep slopes of the Rock. At present there are some 230 animals in five troops occupying the area of the Upper Rock, though occasional forays into the town may result in damages to personal property.
They will often approach and sometimes climb onto people as they are used to human interaction. Nevertheless, the monkeys of GIbraltar are still wild animals and will bite if frightened or annoyed. The Barbary Macaques' contact with large numbers of tourists was causing the integrity of their social groups to break down, as they began to become dependent on humans. This induced the monkeys' urge to foray into the town, resulting in damages to personal property such as buildings, clothing and vehicles. For this reason, feeding the macaques in Gibraltar is now an offence punishable by law. Anyone caught feeding the monkeys will incur a penalty fine of up to £500.
The monkeys 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.
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