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Gibraltar: The Barbary Apes

Upper Rock Nature Reserve; Gibraltar

This animal probably doesn’t realize it, but he and his friends comprise one of the most famous tourist attractions in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, more commonly known as “The Rock.”

He’s a Barbary macaque, and part of the only colony of the tail-less monkeys living on the European continent.  About 300 macaques – in five troops — inhabit a place called the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.  The macaques’ home offers a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea and nearby Spain.  It’s believed the primates migrated to Europe from northern Africa, which is only 35 miles south across the Strait of Gibraltar.

The macaques are wild animals but are not shy about approaching tourists.  In fact, I saw one of them rip a bag of potato chips right out of the hands of a fellow tourist (it’s illegal to intentionally feed the animals).  We were warned that if the monkeys see something that catches their eye — a purse, camera or jewelry, for instance — it’s not uncommon for them to grab it and hop to safety in a flash into the nearby woods.

I wondered if there was a macaque pawn shop on the island:  “Okay, buddy, I’ll give you three bananas for the camera.”

And this guy, perched on a ledge high above the Mediterranean, gave me a look that seemed to say, “Okay, I’ll pose for yet another picture.  But make it snappy.  There are more potato chips to be pilfered.”

Copyright © Dan Fellner 2013


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