There’s a Reason for That…Gibraltar

Sept 2007 Vacation 117 There’s a really good reason for this sign, advising against feeding the apes…and I sure found out what it was.

After riding the cable car up to the top of the Rock – with the most annoying mid-western American girl ever (who claimed to be from Spain – by way of America, btw); I fell in love…with the monkeys.   I always wanted a pet monkey, until I found out they threw their poop that is, but these monkeys clearly were not into that game.  They were everywhere!  Just hanging out around the tourists, not afraid or rambunctious, or throwing poo…just chillin.

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This amazed me…I had never seen monkeys seemingly so comfortable with people before.  They were conductive to photos, and seemed to just lounge in the sun all day, waiting for a bag of chips or something delicious to appear.  I couldn’t really imagine them biting anyone – though I was definitely not going to try to touch one and find out if that was true.  So I lingered behind them in my photos, just in case.

Sept 2007 Vacation 139Damany and I wondered the historic rock in amazement.  Everything seemed so small from up top – the ships were like little flecks on the Strait below.  We tried to imagine being in the military here, dealing with these monkeys on a daily basis.  According to Wikipedia, the Barbary Macaques were probably introduced to Gibraltar by the Moors, who used them as pets.  Their extreme presence on the rock through most of recent military history is apparent via the writings of more than one historian.

“Neither the incursions of Moor, the Spaniards nor the English, nor cannon nor bomb of either have been able to dislodge them.”

~Ignacio López de Ayala
History of Gibraltar (1782)

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More than a few times we came across a curious primate with a winning digestible in hand…and at some point, we found the source of some of these delectables; as well as the problems created by such a source.

A group of young people were feeding the apes, right out of their car.  As a reward for their kindness, they were able to play with the baby Macaques – even being so daring as to pick them up.   The major problem with such activities are that the monkeys now associate not only humans with food…but cars too.

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Once the group of people was done playing with the Macaques, and ready to get in their car, they couldn’t go anywhere.  The apes proceeded to jump atop their vehicle, looking for more handouts, trying to push the windows down with their little fingers.

Damany and I walked away from the scene, only to be approached quickly by another large Macaque.  His eyes met mine, and as he walked intentionally towards me I shifted my footing to swerve a bit right.  He swerved right with me, and then left, then right again.  When he shifted back left with me it became apparent that I was his target – he was eyeing my bag, which in his mind translated to food.

Sept 2007 Vacation 281“Ahhh!” I screamed as he made his move, jumping at me quickly.  In an instant Damany acted as a any good night in shining armor should, stomping aggressively and shooing the beast away.  Afterwards I couldn’t help but crack up, as I thought ‘I made it through five years in Baltimore unscathed, only to be nearly jumped and robbed by a monkey on the rock of Gibraltar – what a story that will be’.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken August 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

As a Gibraltarian I am very proud of my homeland. I appreciate that it cannot be to everyone’s liking though naturally I prefer it to be liked. Your account comes across as a deeper than usual appreciation of its unique nature, and a sensitivity which is lacking in the overwhelming majority of visitors. Thank you most sincerely.

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Kyle August 18, 2011 at 3:48 am

Haha, that’s pretty cool. I have only seen monkeys in zoos or in the Amazon. The ones in the Amazon were not people friendly. Just when I’d spot them in my binoculars they’d run away!

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