Gibraltar Rock Apes

Rock Of Gibraltar aerial view

Several packs of monkeys live on the Rock. One large pack live at the top of the Rock close to the cable car station, this photograph shows a typical daily scene with tourists getting photo opportunities. The Apes Den is also a popular tourist stop where another large pack live.

The monkeys are used to people so you can get close to them. They will approach you with extreme vigour if they think an open bag contains food or confectionery, secure all bags and do not under any circumstances be holding food in your hands. Do not touch them, monkeys will bite if frightened or annoyed.

If you see only a few active monkeys on site at first, please be patient and look carefully at the cliff/trees where you will probably spot some more. They spend over 30% of their day interacting with visitors but remember, they are still semi-wild animals. They need time to rest and take part in other ‘monkey activities’, free from interference. They often supplement their diet with a few wild plants and can sometimes be seen foraging in the early morning.

In 1915 the Government provided money for the Army to feed the monkeys and reduce the roaming and marauding that occurred. Responsibility for the monkeys has now reverted back to the Government of Gibraltar.

Behaviour (things to look out for)

Pouting
A warning to keep your distance.

Tooth Chattering
They do this to calm down and make-up after confrontations.

Identification

Adult Males (Over 7 years)
These are the large monkeys, with big narrow faces. Male Macaques live for about 15 to 17 years.e Apes are a species of tailless monkeys called Barbary Macaques. These Macaques can be found in Morocco and Algeria, with those in Gibraltar being the only free-living monkeys in Europe today.

Adult Females (Over 4 years)
Smaller than the males, they have unmistakable black/grey beards on their chins and sexual swellings on the rumps. Females live 18 to 22 years.

Infant/Juveniles (1-4 years)
Male and female youngsters can often be seen playing together.

Babies
These have black fur until about 4 months old. They are vulnerable, so please keep your distance.

Grooming
Keeps their fur clean and is a social activity. They spend about 20% of their day grooming each other. At stressful times adults may grab an infant, hold it between them and tooth-chatter. This behaviour, unique to Barbary Macaques, is thought to help keep peace in the group.

Infant Care

Babies are born every summer after five to six months gestation. Most group members can be seen playing with, grooming or resting with infants, regardless of their relationship to them. Often females are content to let other ‘aunts’ help care for the babies after the first few days. Look out for a common grouping of a baby, mother and ‘aunt’.

Male Barbary Macaques are unusual amongst primates in that they take a friendly, close interest in infants. You can often see males carrying babies or keeping an eye on them. Sometimes this communal infant care causes stress, you may see pouting, threats and tooth-chattering when a mother disputes custody of her baby with an over enthusiastic baby-sitter.

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