The Barbary Macaque is the flagship mammal species of Gibraltar and the main tourist attraction within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, and is under no immediate threat. In fact the species has increased its population from 33 individuals in two groups in 1970 (when most culling by the Military stopped), to the present, approximately 200, in six groups.
This species is classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union in the IUCN Red Data List 2002, and listed under Appendix II of CITES. Wild populations in North Africa are shrinking rapidly due to habitat loss, overgrazing and human disturbance. Nevertheless the local population of Macaques are doing well. Although the local Barbary Macaques are fed on a daily basis, some groups still forage in residential areas while others pilfer the refuse dumps. This creates a nuisance for some local residents. For further information on the feeding of the Barbary Macaques, go to Feeding the Macaques.
The Barbary Macaque is both a globally endangered species that needs protection and a pest species that has an adverse effect on local biodiversity. The species causes extensive erosion to cliff faces and slopes and uproots numerous plant species in its foraging sprees. This is happening in particular sensitive areas of Rock Gun and Middle Hill, the area around Prince Phillip’s Arch, Anglian Way and O’Hara’s Battery, where many rare species of plants have disappeared and others are under threat from the constant foraging of these animals.
A clear example of the damage done can be seen at the Ape’s Den, where the cliff area is devoid of any vegetation and even the olive trees that grow in the area have suffered from the constant swinging and branch-bending displays of the males.
Whilst they impact Gibraltar's local environment, these monkeys also pose both a threat to and are threatened by human interference. Most individuals, due to easy access to the Barbary Macaques, generally perceive them as semi-domesticated animals. Gibraltar's monkey population is wild and should be treated as such. By encouraging close contact with these primates and not understanding their behaviour, humans are in danger of being attacked when simple human actions, such as pointing, are perceived by the primates as a threat.
By encouraging the Barbary Macaques with treats for photo opportunities, etc, humans and monkeys pose a risk to each other in the transference of diseases through direct contact. In addition, the illegal feeding of treats and illegal dumping of refuse in non-designated areas also poses a health threat to Gibraltar's Barbary Macaques through the availability of foods which do not form part of the primate's normal diet. These foods have led to the development of diabetes in some of our primates, a disease which is not associated with wild primates.
For further information on how to act round our monkeys, monkey behaviour signals and feeding practices, visit our Barbary Macaque Information Leaflet.
Some Information sourced from: Perez, C.E. (2006). Biodiversity Action Plan, Gibraltar: Planning for Nature. The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society. Gibraltar.