Skip to main content

Gibraltar's Barbary Macaques

Gibraltar Tourist Information

The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus), also known as the Barbary ape or Gibraltar monkey, is a species of monkey native to North Africa. However, a population of Barbary macaques resides in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of Spain. These macaques are the only wild population of monkeys in Europe and are an iconic symbol of Gibraltar.

Here are some key facts about the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar:

  1. History: The presence of Barbary macaques in Gibraltar dates back to ancient times, and their arrival in Europe is believed to have been during the Moors' rule of the Iberian Peninsula. There are various legends and stories surrounding their origin in Gibraltar, but their precise arrival date is unclear.

  2. Conservation Status: The Barbary macaque is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Gibraltar population is one of the most well-known and studied groups of these monkeys.

  3. Appearance: Barbary macaques are medium-sized primates with light brown to gray fur. They have a distinctive, almost tailless appearance, and their cheeks often turn pink when they are excited.

  4. Social Structure: Barbary macaques are known for their complex social structures. They live in groups known as troops, which are usually led by a dominant female. Troops can range in size from a few individuals to over 30 monkeys.

  5. Diet: Their diet consists of a variety of plant material, including leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers. They may also consume insects and small vertebrates on occasion.

  6. Behavior: These monkeys are highly adaptable and have learned to coexist with humans in Gibraltar. They are known for their curiosity and can sometimes be seen interacting with tourists. However, feeding them is discouraged, as it can lead to health problems and alter their natural behavior.

  7. Protection and Conservation Efforts: The Barbary macaque population in Gibraltar is protected by law, and efforts have been made to ensure their survival and well-being. Conservationists monitor the population, and educational programs are in place to raise awareness about their conservation needs.

  8. Tourist Attraction: The Barbary macaques are a popular tourist attraction in Gibraltar, and many visitors come to see them at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. However, it's important for tourists to respect guidelines for their interaction with the monkeys to ensure the animals' safety and well-being.

  9. Symbolism: The Barbary macaques are considered one of the symbols of Gibraltar and have become an integral part of the territory's identity. Legend has it that as long as the monkeys remain in Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule.

Overall, the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar are a unique and culturally significant population of monkeys, and their presence adds to the charm and intrigue of this British Overseas Territory. Efforts to conserve and protect this endangered species are ongoing to ensure their continued survival in the wild.