What NOT to do when meeting the Apes of Gibraltar

by Bill Edwards
(Marbella)

Gibraltar Ape

Gibraltar Ape

So in the last year I've visited Gibraltar 3 times, twice to show friends and family around.


On each occasion we've always made sure to head up the Rock and visit the nature reserve where the different colonies of Barbary Macaque Apes that occupy. It's always fun and interesting watching them interact and play with each other and the visitors, yet slightly unnerving when the larger ones come near.

There's always times when the younger ones will jump on someone's shoulder or head and ones that will try to see what people have in their hands or bags. It's entertaining and makes for a great photo.

Yesterday evening we took my friend up with his 4 year old son to see the "cheeky monkeys" as he calls them and get some photos. It was then that we noticed a real change in their behaviour from when we first visited last year.

They seem to have grown even more bold and brazen and will attempt to go in people's pockets and approach you if your hand is clenched and they believe you have food. It can be very intimidating and especially so for a 4 year old child.

We spent a whole with the first colony, took some photos, had them sat on our heads and shoulders and watched as tours came and the so called guides fed the monkeys nuts to get them to perform for their paying customers. So as before we thought nothing of doing like wise and feeding them nuts we'd brought after seeing the guides do this last time.

A few tourists had problems when a one monkey jumped on a women's back and attempted to open her back pack, I tried to help woman and the monkey by offering it a hand down with little contact and it in turn attempted to bite me but failed. She leaned forward and it jumped off, her back still in tact.

Next a woman had her earring pulled from her ear and the monkey began to chew on it, worried it would choke on it I distracted it with a nut and retrieved the earring. All well we proceeded up to the top to see more and take in the view. Again we had no real problems, enjoyed the view then descended.

We retrieved our car and began to head back to the town, but on the our way we saw more Apes half way down near the MOD building and my friend child wanted to stop. We got out and took some photos, observed for a while making sure we had no bags or food that they would want and then all of a sudden one adolescent ape jumped on my partner and but her twice, the second time harder nearly breaking the skin. Shocked and a bit upset she retreated to the car and we headed home.

After this event I decided to search for "Gibraltar what to do if your bitten by an ape" but to my surprise there was very little to no info on whether there is a risk of rabies or any other infectious threat. I basically found one comment on a blog stating that someone had been bitten and told that the apes carry no infectious threat.

I found this whole saga quite worrying and what was even more worrying was the lack of education for people entering this area, not dissimar to an enclosure at the zoo and that they still aren't aware (me included) of what's going on! People need to be taught why not to feed the apes and that taking bags and rucksacks is not appropriate. Signs warning people don't work as they are not told the horrible fact that we are ruining the apes chance at survival by interrupting their natural behaviour. People should be either supervise or not allowed into the apes habitat after a set time. Too many people can just drive or walk into their den and behave how they want with little knowledge of the consequences.

It want until I'd researched what to do after the bite that I found out that the actions of people like myself and more importantly the 'tour guides' are contributing to the incline in bad behaviour from these apes and it's all our fault. I found out about how they are trying to GPS track these animals to avoid them entering the town and attacking people for food and that if they can't sort it out the Apes will be culled!

This is a wake up call for me personally and if and when I go back I WILL NOT be interacting or feeding these animals and being responsible for contributing to a reason to have them culled!

This is a wake up call for me personally and if and when I go back I WILL NOT be interacting or feeding these animals and being responsible for contributing to a reason to have them culled!

I'd love to see some informative articles on these apes from the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) introducing people to these amazing animals and more importantly educating them and encouraging them not to interact or feed them informing them WHY.

I'd hate to see them have to be culled because of irresponsible behaviour.

Read more about the apes of Gibraltar.

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