The Macaque Apes On The Rock

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 14th September 2013

No visit to Gibraltar would be complete without a visit to the Rock Apes. Ch. 5 wanted to film my visit and for me to meet Dr. Eric Shaw in charge of Ape Management. I’d seen a couple of the programme ‘Gibraltar – Britian in the Sun’ so had seen Dr. Eric on the show. He is, of course, very knowledgeable not only about the Apes but about the history appertaining to them and the legend that the Rock will remain British so long as the Apes are there! Quite interesting in the current climate of dis-harmony with the Spanish.

If I can précis the story, at some stage in its history the Rock was under a surprise attack from invaders scaling the steep cliff and it was the noise of the Macaques which alerted the British Garrison. It was this incident which gave rise to the legend.

Sir Winston Churchill must have been a bit superstitious because in 1942 (during World War II), after the population dwindled to just a handful of individuals (just seven monkeys), Sir Winston ordered their numbers be replenished immediately from forest fragments in both Morocco and Algeria because of this traditional belief.

I have to admit that the baby apes are incredibly appealing and one is tempted to want to touch them. Sadly too many of the tourists not only touch them but feed them – and when I asked Eric about their longevity he told me that sometimes they suffer premature death caused in part by being fed by the tourists. They are basically vegetarian although they will catch and eat such thing as lizards but their main diet is fruit and vegetable based. It is sad that people ignore the signs especially when it contributes to an early death. And the tour guides don’t do much to discourage the visitors from handling them and offering them food.

While we were filming one of the Apes stole a hat belonging to a tourist, disappeared over the cliff edge and then dumped it many feet below. Bravely Col. John leaped to the rescue, clambered down the cliff retrieved the hat and reunited the man with his chapeau.

I found this interesting information on the Wikipedia site -
Gibraltar's barbary macaque population was under the care of the British Army and later the Gibraltar Regiment from 1915 to 1991, who carefully controlled a population that initially consisted of a single troop. An officer was appointed to supervise their welfare, and a food allowance of fruit, vegetables and nuts was included in the budget. Births were gazetted in true military fashion, and each new arrival was named. They were named after governors, brigadiers and high-ranking officers. Any ill or injured monkey needing surgery or any other form of medical attention was taken to Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar and received the same treatment as would an enlisted service man. Following the withdrawal of the British garrison, the Government of Gibraltar took over responsibility for the monkeys.

Sorry it is so dark but the Levanter was hanging around (just like the Cloth on Table Mountain in SA) - that's Spain in the background


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