Which monkeys and apes are found living on the Rock of Gibraltar?

Tourist Attractions

By Kristy Tolley

The Primate Haven of Gibraltar

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is a small piece of land on the southern coast of Spain. Despite its size, it is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including several species of monkeys and apes. Gibraltar’s unique location at the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea has made it an ideal habitat for these primates, which have been living on the Rock for hundreds of years.

Gibraltar’s primate population is a popular tourist attraction and a source of pride for the local community. However, the presence of these animals has also raised concerns about their welfare and the impact of human activity on their natural habitat. As such, the government of Gibraltar has implemented strict conservation measures to protect the primate population and ensure their continued survival.

Barbary Macaques: Gibraltar’s Famous Residents

The Barbary macaque is perhaps the most well-known primate species on the Rock of Gibraltar. These sociable and intelligent monkeys are the only wild primate population in Europe and can be found living in several locations across Gibraltar. The Barbary macaque is a protected species, and there are around 200 individuals in the wild on the Rock.

Despite their reputation as friendly and approachable animals, it is important to remember that Barbary macaques are wild animals and can be dangerous if provoked or threatened. Visitors to Gibraltar are advised to keep a safe distance from the monkeys and avoid feeding or touching them, as this can cause health problems and disrupt their natural behavior.

The Rhesus Macaque: A Surprising Sight

The Rhesus macaque is native to South and Southeast Asia, but a small population of these primates has made its home on the Rock of Gibraltar. It is not entirely clear how these monkeys arrived in Gibraltar, but it is thought that they may have been brought over by the British military in the 1920s.

The Rhesus macaque population on Gibraltar is small, with only around 20 individuals living in a single location. However, these monkeys have adapted well to their new environment and are known for their bold and curious nature. Like the Barbary macaques, the Rhesus macaques are protected by law in Gibraltar.

The Japanese Macaque: A Recent Arrival

The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is another species of monkey that has been spotted on the Rock of Gibraltar in recent years. Unlike the Barbary and Rhesus macaques, which are both Old World monkeys, the Japanese macaque is a New World monkey that is native to Japan.

The presence of Japanese macaques in Gibraltar is unusual, as these monkeys are not known to have any natural predators in their native habitat and are not particularly well adapted to living in human environments. However, a small group of these monkeys has been seen on the Rock in recent years, and it is hoped that they will be able to establish a viable population in the wild.

The Baboon: An Uncommon Visitor

Baboons are a type of Old World monkey that are native to Africa and are known for their distinctive faces and large size. While baboons are not typically found living in Europe, there have been occasional sightings of these animals on the Rock of Gibraltar over the years.

It is not clear how baboons have ended up in Gibraltar, but it is likely that they have been brought over by humans or have escaped from captivity. While there are no established populations of baboons on the Rock, sightings of these animals are still considered a rare and exciting event by locals and visitors alike.

The Chimpanzee: A Notable Absence

Chimpanzees are one of the closest living relatives of humans and are known for their intelligence, social behavior, and use of tools. Despite their close genetic relationship to humans, chimpanzees are not found living in the wild in Europe, including Gibraltar.

While there have been efforts to reintroduce chimpanzees to other parts of their former range, such as in Sierra Leone and Uganda, the logistics of reintroducing these animals to Gibraltar would be difficult and potentially risky. As such, it is unlikely that wild chimpanzees will be seen on the Rock of Gibraltar anytime soon.

The Bonobo: Another Missing Species

The bonobo, also known as the pygmy chimpanzee, is a close relative of the chimpanzee that is native to the Congo Basin in Central Africa. While bonobos are not found living in the wild in Europe, there have been efforts to establish captive populations of these animals in zoos and research facilities around the world.

The bonobo is known for its peaceful and cooperative behavior, which makes it an interesting subject for scientific study. While there are no bonobos living on the Rock of Gibraltar, it is possible that these animals could one day be introduced to the territory as part of a conservation or research project.

The Gorilla: Gibraltar’s Primate Dreams

Gorillas are the largest living primates and are native to Africa. While there are no wild gorillas in Europe, these animals have been successfully reintroduced to protected areas in their native range after being hunted nearly to extinction.

The idea of introducing gorillas to Gibraltar has been discussed in the past, but the logistics of such a project would be challenging. Gorillas require large amounts of space and a specific type of habitat to thrive, and it is unclear whether the Rock of Gibraltar could provide these conditions. As such, the dream of seeing wild gorillas on the Rock remains just that – a dream.

The Orangutan: A Hope for the Future

Orangutans are large primates that are native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. These animals are critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, and conservation efforts are underway to protect their remaining populations.

While there are no orangutans living on the Rock of Gibraltar, the territory has been involved in efforts to protect these animals through its support of conservation projects in Southeast Asia. It is hoped that these efforts will help to ensure the survival of the orangutan and other endangered primate species for generations to come.

The Gibbon: A Distant Possibility

Gibbons are small apes that are native to Asia and are known for their acrobatic abilities and distinctive calls. While there are no wild gibbons in Europe, these animals have been successfully reintroduced to protected areas in their native range.

The idea of introducing gibbons to Gibraltar has been discussed in the past, but the logistics of such a project would be challenging. Gibbons require a specific type of habitat to thrive, and it is unclear whether the Rock of Gibraltar could provide these conditions. As such, the possibility of seeing wild gibbons on the Rock remains a distant one.

Conclusion: Gibraltar’s Unique Primate Diversity

Gibraltar’s primate population is a testament to the adaptability of these animals and the importance of conservation efforts to protect their habitats. While the Barbary macaque is the most well-known primate species on the Rock, the presence of other species such as the Rhesus macaque and Japanese macaque highlights the diversity of primates that can thrive in this unique environment.

While the dream of seeing wild gorillas on the Rock of Gibraltar may be out of reach, the territory’s continued support of conservation efforts and research projects provides hope for the future of primates and other endangered species around the world.

References: Sources for Further Reading

  • "Gibraltar’s Wild Monkeys and Apes." Visit Gibraltar.
  • "Barbary Macaques." The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society.
  • "Japanese Macaques in Gibraltar." The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society.
  • "Baboons in Gibraltar." The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society.
  • "Chimpanzee." World Wildlife Fund.
  • "Bonobo." World Wildlife Fund.
  • "Gorilla." World Wildlife Fund.
  • "Orangutan." World Wildlife Fund.
  • "Gibbons." World Wildlife Fund.
Photo of author

Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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