GIBRALTAR

EUROPA – Endangered National Wildlife

Release Date:  05 February 2021

 

  

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

Issue Date: 05 February 2021
Designer: Stephen Perera
Sheet Composition: 6 stamps each design; miniature sheet of 2 stamps
Stamp Size: 34 x 34 mm
Printing Method: Offset lithography
Perforation: 
Printer: Cartor Security Printers
Quantity: 

Design #1: £1.96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design #2: £3.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheet of 6 Stamps #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheet of 6 Stamps #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Sheet of 2 Stamps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation Pack – Stamp Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation Pack – Presentation Pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day Cover – Miniature Sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUROPA stamps are special stamps issued by European postal administrations. They bear the official EUROPA logo, a PostEurop registered trademark under the aegis of PostEurop in which Europe is the central theme. EUROPA stamp issues are among the most collected and most popular stamps in the world and have been issued for over 60 years. Every year a new theme is assigned by PostEurop and all participating countries issue stamps with their own interpretation of the theme. The theme for 2021 is ‘Endangered National Wildlife’. Our stamps feature the Barbary Macaques, classified as endangered by the IUCN. The Macaques are Gibraltar’s most popular tourist attraction and the only wild monkey population found in Europe.

Perhaps Gibraltar’s most important tourist attraction, the Barbary Macaques are normally found in North Africa, but their presence in Gibraltar probably dates from the early days of the British garrison when it is presumed that they were imported, inevitably finding the rough limestone cliffs and scrub vegetation a congenial habitat. In fact, many legends have grown up around them. One is that they travelled from their native Morocco via a subterranean tunnel starting at St Michael’s Cave leading down underneath the Strait of Gibraltar.

Another legend claims that, should the macaques ever disappear, the British will leave Gibraltar. During the last war, natural causes had diminished the macaque numbers alarmingly. 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 other packs living wild on the steep slopes of the Rock. Gibraltar does not wish to lessen ‘the monkey experience’ but experts have warned that too much human interaction is harmful to these wild animals.

Sgt. Alfred Holmes alongside two Gibraltar Barbary macaques, looking down on the city of Gibraltar, circa 1950s.

Primarily because we want them to remain living as they are, in a semiwild state, we strongly advise you not to get too close, feed or touch them. Finally, because they are wild animals, they may react violently and have been known to attack and inflict serious bites. By all means take photographs but please allow the monkeys to live a natural, free life for their benefit and the enjoyment of all. Just keep a safe distance, do not shout or make sudden movements.

Although not strictly speaking correct, the Barbary macaque is traditionally called an ape, since it resembles one in having almost no tail. Barbary macaques (scientific name, Macaca sylvanus) are Old World primates belonging to the family Cercopithecidae. In addition to the Barbary and other macaques, this family also comprises baboons, guenons and langurs. The members of this family share several skeletal features, such as a narrow nose, hindlimbs longer than the forelimbs, and a tail (when present) that is not prehensile. Due to other anatomical features mainly related to dietary adaptations, this family is divided into two subfamilies. The macaques belong to the subfamily called Cercopithecinae. One of the characteristic features of this subfamily is the presence of cheek pouches in which the animals store food.

Today at least 20 different macaque species are known and the macaque genus is characterized by its diversity. One example is the tail: while in the Barbary macaque, the tail is almost not existent, the long-tailed macaque from Indonesia has a tail longer than its body. Between these extremes, all intermediate stages can be found. They have also developed diverse ecological adaptations. Macaques are found in more climates and habitats than any other primate except humans. The geographical distribution ranges from as far east and north as Japan to as far west as Morocco. But the Barbary macaque is the only one to occur in Africa; all other macaques are found in Asia. Furthermore, the Barbary macaques on Gibraltar are the only free-ranging monkeys in Europe.


Barbary macaque

This young Barbary macaque is part of a group of 25 to 70 individuals from several different monkey families in Gibraltar.

The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus), also known as Barbary ape or magot, is a macaque species native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco along with a small introduced population in Gibraltar. It is one of the best-known Old World monkey species.

The Barbary macaque is of particular interest because males play an atypical role in rearing young. Because of uncertain paternity, males are integral to raising all infants. Generally, Barbary macaques of all ages and sexes contribute in alloparental care of young.

The diet of Barbary macaque consists primarily of plants and insects and they are found in a variety of habitats. Males live to around 25 years old while females may live up to 30 years. Besides humans, they are the only free-living primates in Europe. Although the species is commonly referred to as the “Barbary ape”, the Barbary macaque is actually a true monkey. Its name refers to the Barbary Coast of Northwest Africa.

The Barbary macaque population of Gibraltar is the only such population outside Northern Africa and the only population of wild monkeys in Europe. About 230 macaques live on the Rock of Gibraltar. This population appears to be stable or increasing, while the North African population is declining.

Simia sylvanus was the scientific name proposed by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 for a short-tailed macaque native to Africa.

Phylogenetic and molecular analyses show that the Barbary macaque is closely related to macaque species in Asia. Scientists have also studied the Y-chromosome, but this has proven unfruitful. One study indicates that the Barbary macaque has origins in Morocco and Algeria. The results of a phylogenetic analysis show that the chromosomes of Barbary macaque resemble those of the rhesus macaque with the exception of chromosomes 1, 4, 9, and 16.

The monkey is yellowish-brown to grey with a lighter underside. The Barbary macaque has a mean body length of 556.8 mm (21.9 in) in females and 634.3 mm (25.0 in) in males, and mean body weight is reported to be 9.9 ± 10.3 kg (21.8 lbs) in females and 14.5 ± 17.5 kg (32.0 lbs) in males. Its face is dark pink and its tail is vestigial, measuring anywhere from 4 to 22 mm (0.16 to 0.87 in). Males often have a more prominent tail. The front limbs of this monkey are longer than its hind limbs. Females are smaller than males.

Young Barbary macaque with its mother.

The Barbary macaque lives mainly in the Atlas and Rif Mountain ranges of Morocco and Algeria. It is the only macaque species that is distributed outside Asia. It can live in a variety of habitats, such as cedar, fir, and oak forests, or grasslands, scrub, or rocky ridges full of vegetation. Most Barbary macaques inhabit cedar forests currently in the Atlas Mountains, but this could reflect the present habitat availability rather than a specific preference for this habitat.

The Barbary macaque is gregarious, forming mixed groups of several females and males. Troops can have 10 to 100 individuals and are matriarchal, with their hierarchy determined by lineage to the lead female. Unlike other macaques, the males participate in rearing the young. Males may spend a considerable amount of time playing with and grooming infants. In this way, a strong social bond is formed between males and juveniles, both the male’s own offspring and those of others in the troop. This may be a result of selectivity on the part of the females, who may prefer highly parental males.

The mating season runs from November through March. The gestation period is 147 to 192 days, and females usually have only one offspring per pregnancy. Females rear twins in rare instances. Offspring reach maturity at three to four years of age, and may live for 20 years or more.

Grooming other Barbary macaques leads to lower stress levels for the individuals that do the grooming. While stress levels do not appear to be reduced in animals that are groomed, grooming more individuals leads to even lower stress levels; this is a benefit that might outweigh the costs to the groomer, which include less time to participate in other activities such as foraging. The mechanism for reducing stress may be explained by the social relationships (and support) that are formed by grooming.

Male Barbary macaques interfere in conflicts and form coalitions with other males, usually with related males rather than with unrelated males. These relationships suggest that males do so in order to indirectly increase their own fitness. Furthermore, males form coalitions with closely related kin more often than they do with distantly related kin. These coalitions are not permanent and may change frequently as male ranking within the group changes. Although males are more likely to form coalitions with males who have helped them in the past, this is not as important as relatedness in determining coalitions. Males avoid conflicting with higher ranking males and will more frequently form coalitions with the higher ranking male in a conflict. Close grouping of males occur when infant Barbary macaques are present. Interactions between males are commonly initiated when a male presents an infant macaque to an adult male who is not caring for an infant, or when an unattached male approaches males who are caring for infants. This behavior leads to a type of social buffering, which reduces the number of antagonistic interactions among males in a group.

An open mouth display by the Barbary macaque is used most commonly by juvenile macaques as a sign of playfulness.

Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus , skull, in the collection of Museum Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden, Germany

The main purpose of calls in Barbary macaques is to alert other group members to possible dangers such as predators. Barbary macaques can discriminate calls by individuals in their own group from those by individuals in other groups of conspecific macaques. Neither genetic variation nor habitat differences are likely causes of acoustic variation in the calls of different social groups. Instead, minor variations in acoustic structure among groups similar to the vocal accommodation seen in humans are the likely cause. However, acoustic characteristics such as pitch and loudness are varied based on the vocalizations of individuals they associate with, and social situations play a role in the acoustic structure of calls.

Barbary macaque females have the ability to recognize their own offspring’s calls through a variety of acoustic parameters. Because of this, infant calls do not have to differ dramatically for mothers to be able to recognize their own infant’s call. Mothers demonstrate different behaviors on hearing the calls of other infant macaques as opposed to the calls of their own offspring. More parameters for vocalizations lead to more reliable identification of calls in both infants and in adult macaques so it is not surprising that the same acoustic characteristics that are heard in infant calls are also heard in adult calls.

Although Barbary macaques are sexually active at all points during a female’s reproductive cycle, male Barbary macaques determine a female’s most fertile period by sexual swellings on the female. Mating is most common during a female’s most fertile period. The swelling size of the female reaches a maximum around the time of ovulation, suggesting that size helps a male predict when he should mate. This is further supported by the fact that male ejaculation peaks at the same time that female sexual swelling peaks. Change in female sexual behavior around the time of ovulation is insufficient to demonstrate to the male that the female is fertile. The swellings, therefore, appear necessary for predicting fertility.

Barbary macaque females differ from other nonhuman primates in that they often mate with a majority of the males in their social group. While females are active in choosing sexual associations, the mating behavior of macaque social groups is not entirely determined by female choice. These multiple matings by females decrease the certainty of paternity of male Barbary macaques, and may lead them to care for all infants within the group. For a male to ensure his reproductive success, he must maximize his time spent around the females in the group during their fertile periods. Injuries to male macaques peak during the fertile period, which points to male-male competition as an important determinant of male reproductive success. Not allowing a female to mate with other males, however, would be costly to the male, since doing so would not allow him to mate with more females.

Barbary macaquel at the Prague Zoo in Prague, Czech Republic

Unlike other macaques where most parental care comes from the mother, Barbary macaques from all age and sex groups participate in alloparental care of infants. Male care of infants has been of particular interest to research because high levels of care from males are uncommon in groups where paternity is highly uncertain. Males even act as true alloparents of infant macaques by carrying them and caring for them for hours at a time as opposed to just demonstrating more casual interactions with the infants. Female social status plays a role in female alloparental interactions with infants. Higher-ranking females have more interactions, whereas younger, lower-ranking females have less access to infants.

The diet of the Barbary macaque consists of a mixture of plants and insect prey. It consumes a large variety of gymnosperms and angiosperms. Almost every part of the plant is eaten, including flowers, fruits, seeds, seedlings, leaves, buds, bark, gum, stems, roots, bulbs, and corns. Common prey caught and consumed by Barbary macaques are snails, earthworms, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers, termites, water striders, scale insects, beetles, butterflies, moths, ants, and even tadpoles.

Barbary macaques can cause major damage to the trees in their prime habitat, the Atlas cedar forests in Morocco. Since deforestation in Morocco has become a major environmental problem in recent years, research has been conducted to determine the cause of the bark stripping behavior demonstrated by these macaques. Cedar trees are also vital to this population of Barbary macaques as an area with cedars can support a much higher density of macaques than one without them. A lack of a water source and exclusion of monkeys from water sources are major causes of cedar bark stripping behavior in Barbary macaques. Density of macaques, however, is less correlated with the behavior than the other causes considered.

Their main predators are leopards, eagles (golden eagles may only predate on cubs, since they are not morphologically adapted to hunt primates; other birds of prey that do kill monkeys, like the crowned eagle, live in more southern areas of Africa), and domestic dogs. The approach of eagles and domestic dogs is known to elicit an alarm call response.

Wild populations of Barbary macaques have suffered a major decline in recent years to the point of being declared an endangered species on the IUCN Red List since 2008. The Barbary macaque is threatened by fragmentation and degradation of forest habitat and poaching for the illegal pet trade, and it is killed in retaliation for raiding crops.

Spain is the main entry point in Europe. Today, no accurate data exist on the location and number of individuals out of their habitat. An unknown number of individuals is included in zoological collections, at other institutions, in private hands, in storage, or waiting to be relocated to appropriate destinations.

The habitat of the Barbary macaque is under threat from increased logging activity. Local farmers view the monkeys as pests, and engage in extermination of the species. Once common throughout northern Africa and southern Europe, only an estimated 12,000 to 21,000 Barbary macaques are left in Morocco and Algeria. Once, their distribution was much more extensive, reaching Tunisia and Libya. Their range is no longer continuous, with only isolated areas of range remaining. During the Pleistocene, this species inhabited the Mediterranean coasts and Europe, reaching Italy, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and France, and as far north as Germany and the British Isles. The species decreased with the arrival of the Ice Age, becoming extinct in the Iberian Peninsula 30,000 years ago.

Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) feet and hands, in Gibraltar.

The Barbary macaque is threatened by habitat loss, overgrazing, and illegal capture. In Morocco, tourists interact with Barbary macaques in many regions. Information collected in the interviews with inhabitants in the High Atlas of Morocco indicated that the capture of macaques occurs in these regions. Conflict between local people and wild macaques is one of the greatest challenges to Barbary macaque conservation in Morocco. The main threats to the survival of Barbary macaques in this region have been found to be habitat destruction and the impact of livestock grazing, but problems of conflict with inhabitants are also increasing due to crop raiding and the illegal capture of macaques. Human–macaque conflict is mainly due to crop raiding. In the High Atlas of Morocco, macaques attract a large number of tourists every year, and they are favored for their potential benefits to tourism. In addition, macaques have some ecological roles; for example, they are the predators of several destructive insects and pests of plants and participate in seed dispersal in many plant species.

In the Central High Atlas, the Barbary macaque occurs in relatively small and fragmented areas restricted to the main valleys at altitudes of 700–2,400 m. In a 2013 study, researchers reported that they found Barbary macaques in relatively small and fragmented habitats in 10 sites, and that the species no longer occurred in four localities. This could be attributed to habitat degradation, hunting activities, the impact of livestock grazing, and disturbance by people. As deforestation for agriculture and overgrazing continues, the remaining forest becomes increasingly fragmented. Consequently, the Barbary macaque is now restricted to small, fragmented relict habitats.

Many of the mistaken ideas about human anatomy contained in the writings of Galen are apparently due to his use of these animals, the only anthropoid available to him, in dissections. Strong cultural taboos of his time prevented his performing any actual dissections of human cadavers, even in his role as physician and teacher of physicians.

Macaques in Morocco are frequently used as photo props, despite their protected status. Tourists are encouraged to take photos with the animals for a fee. Macaques are also sold as pets in Morocco and Algeria, and exported to Europe to be used as pets and fighting monkeys, both in physical marketplaces and online.

Two adults Barbary Macaques with a baby on top of the Rock of Gibraltar. One macaque has a Dairy Milk chocolate wrapper in its hand, which it had pick-pocketed from a tourist.

Tourists interact with wild monkeys across the globe, and in some situations, tourists may be encouraged to feed, photograph, and touch the monkeys. Although tourism has the potential to bring in money towards conservation goals and provides an incentive for the protection of natural habitats, close proximity and interactions with tourists can also have significant psychological impacts on the Barbary macaques. Fecal samples and stress-indicating behaviors, such as belly scratching, indicate that the presence of tourists has a negative impact on the macaques. Human activities such as taking photographs cause the animals stress, possibly because the people come too close to the animals and make prolonged eye contact (a sign of aggression in many primates). Macaques that live in areas close to human contact have more parasites and lower overall health than those that live in wilder environments, at least in part due to the unhealthy diets they receive as a result of feeding from humans.

Several groups of Barbary macaques can be found in tourist sites, where they are affected by the presence of visitors providing food to them. Researchers comparing two such groups in the central High Atlas mountains in 2008 found that the tourist group of Barbary macaques spent significantly more time engaged in resting and aggressive behavior, and foraged and moved significantly less than the wild group. The tourist group spent significantly less time per day feeding on herbs, seeds, and acorns than the wild group. Human food accounted for 26% of the daily feeding records for the tourist group, and 1% for the wild-feeding group.

Scientists who collected data on the seasonal activity budget and diet composition of the endangered Barbary macaque group inhabiting a tourist site in Morocco found that activity budgets and diet of the study group varied markedly among seasons and habitats. The percentage of daily time spent in foraging and moving was lowest in spring, and the daily time spent in resting was highest in spring and summer. The time budget devoted to aggressive display was highest in spring than the other three seasons. There is an increase in the daily feeding time spent eating flowers and fruits in summer, seeds, acorns, roots and barks in winter and autumn, herbs in spring and summer, and a clear increase in consumption of the human food in spring.

The tourist and the wild groups did not differ in the proportion of daily records devoted to terrestrial feeding, but the tourist group spent a significantly lower percentage of daily records in terrestrial foraging, moving and resting, while performing more terrestrial aggressive displays more than the wild group. There was no significant difference between the two groups in the proportion of terrestrial feeding records spent eating fruits; but the tourist group had lower daily percentages of terrestrial feeding on leaves, seeds and acorns, roots and barks, and herbs, while it spent higher daily percentages of terrestrial feeding on human food.

There is evidence that Barbary macaques were traded or perhaps given as diplomatic gifts as long ago as the Iron Age. Their remains have been found in such sites as Emain Macha in Ireland, dating to no later than 95 BC; an Iron Age hillfort, the Titelberg in Luxembourg; and two Roman sites in Britain.

Fossils of Macaca sylvanus have been found much further north and east into mainland Europe, dating to the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Some earlier fossils may be this species or the earlier Florentine macaque Macaca florentina, or transitional between the two. Examples identified as M. sylvanus have been found in France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. All the specimens date from interglacial and temperate phases, and are considered a good indicator of warm climate.

A Barbary macaque sitting on a fence at the Gibraltar Cable Car top station.

Originally from the Atlas Mountains and the Rif Mountains of Morocco, the Barbary macaque population in Gibraltar is the only wild monkey population on the European continent. Although most Barbary monkey populations in Africa are experiencing decline due to hunting and deforestation, the Gibraltar population is increasing. Currently, some 300 animals in five troops occupy the Upper Rock area of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, though they make occasional forays into the town. As they are a tailless species, they are also known locally as Barbary apes or rock apes, despite being classified as monkeys (Macaca sylvanus). The local people simply refer to them as monos (English: monkeys) when conversing in Spanish or Llanito (the local vernacular).

The name Barbary refers to the Berber People of North Africa who, since the beginning of history, had ties with the animals surrounding their region, as the Barbary macaques. The macaque population had also been present on the Rock of Gibraltar long before Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 and according to records, since prior to reconquest of Gibraltar from the Muslims. It was during the Islamic period where a purported introduction may have taken place. In his work Historia de la Muy Noble y Más Leal Ciudad de Gibraltar (History of the Very Noble and Most Loyal City of Gibraltar), written between 1605 and 1610, Alonso Hernández del Portillo, the first chronicler of Gibraltar, wrote:

But now let us speak of other and living producers which in spite of the asperity of the rock still maintain themselves in the mountain, there are monkeys, who may be called the true owners, with possession from time immemorial, always tenacious of the dominion, living for the most part on the eastern side in high and inaccessible chasms.”

In his History of Gibraltar (1782), Ignacio López de Ayala, a Spanish historian like Portillo, wrote of the monkeys:

Neither the incursions of Moor, the Spaniards nor the English, nor cannon nor bomb of either have been able to dislodge them.

The macaques receive a daily supply of fresh fruit and vegetables including, oranges, apples, potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage to supplement their natural food resources.

Repeated introduction of animals and the lack of reliable data concerning founders of the Gibraltar macaque population has obscured their origin. The fact that all extant Gibraltarian mtDNA haplotypes were also found in North Africa, combined with the lack of fossil evidence of M. sylvanus in Gibraltar at the end of the last glaciation, greatly diminishes the possibility that the Gibraltar macaques represent or include any remnant of the original European population, a possibility which can nevertheless not be excluded. Indeed, it had been earlier suggested that the original Gibraltar macaques were a remnant of populations that had spread throughout Southern Europe during the Pliocene, up to 5.5 million years ago. The Macaca sylvanus species is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List and is declining. About 75% of the total population is found in the Middle Atlas Mountains.

During the Pleistocene, this species inhabited the Mediterranean coasts and Europe, reaching as far north as Germany and the British Isles. The species decreased with the arrival of the Ice Age, to extinction in the Iberian Peninsula 30,000 years ago.

The Gibraltar Barbary macaques are considered by many to be the top tourist attraction in Gibraltar. The most popular troop is that of Queen’s Gate at the Ape’s Den, where people can get especially close to the monkeys. They will often approach and sometimes climb onto people, as they are used to human interaction. Nevertheless, they are still wild animals and will bite if frightened or annoyed.

Although the Barbary macaques form part of tourism in Gibraltar, direct contact with them (as shown in this photograph taken on 26 April 2009) is strongly discouraged.

Deliberately feeding the macaques in Gibraltar is now an offence punishable by law. Anyone caught feeding the monkeys is liable to be fined up to £4,000.

Gibraltar’s Barbary macaque 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. The ‘Keeper of the Apes’ would keep the official records, maintaining an up-to-date register for each ape, listing their births and names and supervising their diet, which they drew officially every week. The food allowance of fruit, vegetables and nuts was included in the budget, set by the War Office at £4 a month in 1944. They would humorously announce births in the ‘Gibraltar Chronicle‘:— “Rock Apes. Births: To Phyllis, wife of Tony, at the Upper Rock, on 30th June 1942— a child. Both doing well.” much to the delight of readers. They were named after governors, brigadiers and high-ranking officers. Any ill or injured monkey needing surgery or any other form of medical attention was taken to Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar and received the same treatment as would an enlisted service man. When UK-based infantry units were withdrawn and garrison duty was left to the Gibraltar Regiment, the Government of Gibraltar took over responsibility for the monkeys.

Officers in charge:

  • Lt Bill Parker of the Royal Artillery (1944 – unknown)
  • Major W O Skelton of the Royal Artillery (circa 1951)
  • Gunner Wilfred Portlock of the Royal Artillery Regiment (circa 1940 – 1960)
  • Sgt Alfred Holmes of the Gibraltar Regiment (circa 1958 – circa 1986)
  • Cpl. Ernest Asquez of the Gibraltar Regiment (circa 1986 – 1991)

On 11 May 1954, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the ape packs while on a visit to Gibraltar. A photograph captured the Queen feeding a Barbary ape while the Duke of Edinburgh stood next to battle-dressed ape-keeper Gunner Wilfred Portlock.

The most popular troop of macaques is based at the Ape’s Den area within the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.

The monkeys are currently managed by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS), and veterinarian expertise is provided by the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic. 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 to check their health status. Additionally, body size, weight and several other measurements are taken. Finally, the animals are given a tattoo number and a microchip as a means of identification. But tattoos are not the only way to recognise individual macaques; many of them have particular marks, scars or spots which can be used as distinguishing features. All monkeys are photographed and the pictures and individual characteristics are catalogued. Cataloguing work is carried out by the GONHS. The GONHS also does collaborative studies with the Scientific Institute of Rabat-Agdal University (Morocco), the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, United States), the University of Vienna (Austria), the German Primate Centre (Germany) and the University of Zurich (Switzerland).

Once every year, a census is conducted to provide data and to monitor reproductive success of the whole population. These demographic data are important for the management of the population generally, and fertility regulation in selected individuals, specifically. Since Barbary macaque females reproduce well, the population on Gibraltar is steadily increasing, which in turn puts pressure on the limited habitat. Animal population control is therefore an essential part of the effective management of the population. In 2008 a small group of macaques that had permanently relocated to the Catalan Bay area were culled. In 2012 the Government Minister for Health and the Environment Dr. John Cortes stated that the Government was investigating the possibility of reintroducing over a hundred macaques to their natural habitat in North Africa.

In October 2014, the Government of Gibraltar announced that it would export 30 of the monkeys to a safari park in Scotland. This caused a journalist spin that they were sent to Scotland for being especially “disruptive”. y 2017, the monkeys at the Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling were doing well and the first births were being registered.

In an 1887 satire by Jules Verne, the Spaniard Gil Braltar invades the rock with a macaque troop after disguising himself as one of them.

A popular belief holds that as long as Gibraltar Barbary macaques exist on Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule. In 1942 (during World War II), after the population dwindled to just seven monkeys, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered their numbers be replenished immediately from forest fragments in both Morocco and Algeria because of this traditional belief.

In another story, the Gibraltar Barbary macaques entered the Rock via a subterranean passage between Lower St. Michael’s Cave and Morocco.

The Gibraltar Barbary macaque has been portrayed on the Gibraltar pound’s five-pence coin since 1988 and on the tercentenary edition one penny coin since 2004. They are featured in the 2007 novel The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson. The Gibraltar Barbary macaques are also central to the plot of Paul Gallico’s 1962 comedic novel Scruffy and the 1962 British comedy film Operation Snatch, both set during WWII when their numbers were dwindling.

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is startled by one in the pre-credit sequence of the 1987 film The Living Daylights during a training exercise on Gibraltar. Several more are seen watching and getting out of the way of Bond’s struggle with an assassin on a burning munitions truck as it speeds through the tourist zone.

SOURCES

ADDITIONAL INFO

 

Gibraltar Stamps

Wikipedia (linked above)

 

 

 

 

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