Barbary Macaque

The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is a tail-less macaque. It is found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco with a small, population in Gibraltar. The Barbary macaque is one of the best-known Old World monkey species. Besides humans, they are the only primates that live freely in Europe. Although the species is commonly referred to as the “Barbary Ape”, the Barbary macaque is a true monkey, not an ape.

It is yellowish-brown to grey with lighter undersides. It grows to a maximum size of 30 in (75 cm) and 29 lb (13 kg). Its face is a dark pink. The front limbs of this monkey are longer than its hind limbs. Females are somewhat smaller than males.

It dwells in forests of cedar, pine and oak. The Barbary macaque may frequent elevations of 6,900 ft (2,100 m) or more. It is a daily animal, dividing its time more or less equally between tree living and land territory. This monkey feeds on leaves, roots, and fruit, but will also eat insects. The Barbary macaque patrols a territory that may span several square miles. It peacefully co-exists with other primate species, sharing watering holes without incident. The Barbary macaque moves about energetically on all fours, occasionally rising erect on its hind limbs to survey for threats.

The Barbary macaque is a social monkey, forming mixed groups of several females and males. The troop of 10 to 30 individuals is matriarchal, with its hierarchy determined by lineage to the lead female. Unlike other macaques, the males participate in rearing the young. It spends much time playing and grooming with them. In this way, a strong social bond is formed between a male and his offspring. This may be a result of selectiveness on the part of the females, who seem to prefer highly parental males.

The mating season runs from November through March. After a gestation period of 147 to 192 days, typically one baby per female is born. Twins are a rarity. The monkeys reach maturity at 3 to 4 years of age, and may live for 20 years or more.

The last population in Europe is that of Gibraltar. At present there are some 300 animals in five troops occupying the area of the Upper Rock.