Barbary Macaque

Barbary Macaque (Macaca Sylvanus) used to be common throughout all North Africa. Today you can find this macaque only in Algeria, Morocco and the Gibraltar. Barbary Macaques live in plains and mountainous areas, up to 2 km above the sea level. This species of monkeys is notable for it is the only primate besides Homo Sapiens to live freely in Europe.

Barbary Macaque near the Gibraltar

Males are usually 60 centimeters tall and females are slightly smaller. Barbary macaques usually weigh in between 5-12 kilos (11 lbs – 22 lbs). The fur is yellowish-brown to grey and the macaques only have a stub of a tail.

The macaques usually mate in autumn or spring and give birth to one offspring. An interesting fact is that the male takes care of the offspring, this way not only bonding with the baby monkey, but also with other males in the group. Just several days after the birth, the male starts taking care of the offspring, carrying it around, playing with it and sheltering it from cold. When a male presents the kid to other male macaques everyone starts clacking their teeth and hugging the baby macaque. Macaques get the yellow-brown fur at the age of three or four, before they are darker with a light face.

Two Barbary Macaque males with their offsprings
Two Barbary Macaque males with their offsprings

One Barbary Macaque colony is present in the Gibraltar mountains. It is not completely clear whether those are the descendants of a former European population or descendants of monkeys brought from Africa. In year 1858 the Gibraltar population of Barbary Macaques was striked with a disease and only three specimens survived. The governor of Gibraltar then ordered to bring some macaques from northern Africa. There is a legend that Gibraltar is gonna be controlled by the English as long as those monkeys reside in the mountains, that’s why Winston Churchill himself in 1942 ordered to bring some more macaques from Africa.

Barbary macaques are social animals. They live in well-organized groups that usually have 10 to 30 specimens. One group usually covers an area of several square kilometers, however several groups’ home ranges may overlap. Barbary macaques spend nights in tree branches, or between rocks. During day time they slowly wander around their territory, jumping and playing in trees and rocks. Those monkeys mostly move on all fours and stand up to observe the surroundings. These animals are alert all the time because of the fear of enemies, especially eagles. The biggest enemy of this primate is the man that destroys Barbary macaques’ natural habitat, forms fields and kills the monkeys in order to prevent damage to crops.



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