No more monkey business for 30 of the Rock’s famous apes. :: A. B.
It’s said that if the apes ever leave the Rock of Gibraltar it will cease to be British.
But with the population of the Barbary macaques swelling in recent years, government chiefs have announced that they are to deport a group of 30 apes this spring.
Although officials are remaining tight-lipped on their new home, it’s believed they will be sent to North Africa where numbers are low.
The move is the latest in a bid to keep the famous inhabitants from hanging out in built up areas such as schools and on the Main Street.
Dr John Cortes, Minister for the Environment, described it as an “excellent step forward”.
“This marks the beginning of real progress in dealing with macaque numbers that have been allowed to get out of control,” he said.
“By exporting and neutering we are controlling numbers without having to cull, as we are committed to doing.”
Gibraltar’s monkey population currently stands at around 230.
Extra staff have now been drafted in to help push the animals back to their traditional sites on the Upper Rock. Increased feeding areas are also being introduced as well as improvements in their habitats to help lure them back up the Rock.
Last March the Government of Gibraltar experimented with a series of “loud bangs” in South Bastion and the Laguna Estate to help scare the monkeys away.
Last December officials also announced an increase in fines for anyone caught feeding the apes outside of the nature reserve.
As previously reported in SUR in English, officials are concerned that the apes have lost their fear of humans - and now see them as a source of rich food. The government are hoping to avoid a repeat of the cull carried out almost five years ago after a pack of apes rampaged through the town centre.
Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was superstitious about the presence of the apes on the Rock, and said that when the monkeys leave, so too will the British.
He took it so seriously that during the Second World War he shipped extra monkeys from North Africa to Gibraltar, when the population plummeted to just seven individuals.
It’s believed the apes were introduced to the British Overseas Territory from Africa by 18th century British soldiers.