IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
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Barbary ape in Gibraltar

The only semi-wild primate in Europe (just) is not really an ape but the Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanu). Restricted to Gibraltar where it was possibly (see below) introduced by the British in 1740 for shooting practice. Despite its English name it is a monkey and not an ape. With just four individuals left in 1943, Winston Churchill ordered a new batch to be captured in Morocco and released on the Peñon, apparantly as a morale booster: it was said that Gibraltar would be British while there were still macaques there. Clap-trap apart, there is fossil evidence to the ancient presence of Barbary apes in Europe, though romantic theories to Gibraltar being their last European outpost where they clung on as the Quarternary ices bit in are now totally discredited. DNA analysis has shown that all of Gibraltar's apes are descended from two ancient populations from two seperate Algerian and Moroccan populations.

Photo of barbary ape in Atlas Mountains. Photo kindly provided by Stephen Daly of http://www.andalucianguides.com

Short video of Barbary macaque in Morocco from arkive

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From this paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published in May 2005 (abstract only)

Distinction between Moroccan and Algerian haplotypes permitted analysis of the origin of the Gibraltar colony of Barbary macaques (68 samples; 30% of the population). It is generally held that the present Gibraltar population descended from a dozen individuals imported during World War II. However, the Gibraltar sample was found to include Algerian and Moroccan haplotypes separated by at least 16 mutational steps, revealing a dual origin of the founding females.

I am a little confused. Weren't there supposed to be four left? Whatever the case, they were, it seems, introduced by humans. When they arrived exactly is still a matter of debate. Some researchers suggest that it was the Arabs rather than the British who brought them as pets from 711 onwards.

A census in 2002 recorded some 240 Barbary apes living in Gibraltar, distributed between five clans of between 37 and 68 animals, with the animals in the higher crags tending to be wilder, and the smaller number living further down being more used to human presence. These were once described by a researcher as 'bags of fat', though the are now consideably fitter thanks to the work of GONHS. Vunerable in its Moroccan and Algerian home, where perhaps 10,000 survive under threat from logging, half their population of 20 years ago. Barbary apes are listed as Vulnerable by the 2000 IUCN Red List.
Barbary ape (Barbary macaque) : mona* de berbería (Macaca sylvanus). *Colloquially known as mono.

See also wildlife in Spain - Wolf watching in the Sierra de la Culebra - Spanish Bear News - Iberian Lynx News - Iberian Lynx - Badgers in Spain - Wolves in Spain -Wolves, boars and capercaillie - Deer in Spain - Barbary apes in Gibraltar - European and American mink - Coypu in Spain - Pyrenean mountain goat - English-Spanish-Latin mammal checklist for Spain - Comparative table of Castilian and Catalan dictionaries on zoology -- Bats in Spain - Chamois in Spain - European and American mink - Acorns and rats in Castile Mammals in Spain -Wild Cats in Spain

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