A tour of the Rock includes Queen’s Gate and the Great Siege Tunnels area and also the Barbary Ape Den, home to Europe’s only free–roaming primate community. Unlike North africa the community is triving. Because they are tailess, they are often refered to as apes, although they are in fact monkeys.
The monkeys on the rock presently are of Moroccan and Algerian origin.
It is thought that they were introduced to Gibraltar by the Moors who kept them as pets.
A popular legend exists that as long as there are Barbary Macaques in Gibraltar that it will remain under British rule. In 1942 during the 2nd World War the number dwindled down so much that only 7 monkeys remained. Winston Churchill immediately ordered that the numbers be replenished by bringing over monkeys fron Morocco and Algeria because of his belief in the legend.
Nowadays the monkeys are well looked after by the GONHS (Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society) and the GVC (Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic). They are given fresh drinking water and vegetables daily as a suppliment to there natural diet of leaves, olives, flowers, roots, and seeds.
They are caught on a regular basis to check their health, weight and size and to be tattooed and micro-chipped as forms of identification.
From 1915 until 1991, the British Army and later the Gibraltar regiment took care of the moneys. Each baby monkey was given a name of a Governor, Brigadier or high ranking officer. If a monkey was taken ill it was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital and treated like any other enlisted service man. The government of Gibraltar took over caring for them when the British Garrison withdrew.
The monkeys are a hugh magnet for tourism. The Ape’s den at Queens Gate is especially popular as the tourists can get really close to them. Monkeys often jump on peoples heads or shoulders as they love to interact with humans. However they are still wild animals and will bite if frightened or annoyed so you must act responsibly. It is illegal to feed the monkeys and offenders can be fined up to £500. This is to stop them becoming dependant on humans. The monkeys were present on the rock way before gibraltar became British in the 18th centuary. We now this because Alonso Hernandez del Portillo the first chronicler of Gibraltar wrote between 1605 and 1610, ” 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”