In spite of their name, these primates are monkeys rather than apes, and the only ones to be found in Europe, albeit in a very small area.
The Gibraltarian population consists of around 200 monkeys, which live on the steepsided rock, although individuals occasionally roam down into the town. In North Africa, however, Barbary apes inhabit forested areas, up to an altitude of 2160 m (7086 ft). They live in mixed-sex troops, headed by a matriarch, and unlike other macaques, males of this species are involved in the care of the offspring.
Barbary apes are a type of monkey called a macaque. Most macaque species live in Asia, where they have adapted well to life alongside humans. The Barbary ape is a North African species, which lives in the dry cedar forests of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The species is most common in the forests that grow on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains, where snow is common in winter. This macaque is the only monkey species to survive in Europe. It was introduced to Gibraltar by the Romans, and a small community still lives there.
The animals forage for food on the ground, in trees and on top of buildings. They feed on a range of plant and animal foods. The European population is highly dependent on humans for its survival.
Barbary apes are not apes at all but monkeys. Their common name comes from the fact that they lack a tail, which is one of the characteristic features of true apes, such as gibbons, gorillas and humans.
The social behaviour of the European monkeys is less stable than in the African populations. Natural populations live in mixed sex groups: females in a group arc sisters and cousins while the males are drawn from a mixture of neighbouring troops. The males in a troop are organized into a hierarchy, and the top-ranked males mate with most of the females.
Distribution: As their name suggests, these macaques originate from Africa’s Barbary coast, occurring in Morocco and northern Algeria. They are also present on the Rock of Gibraltar.
Habitat: Dry forest.
Weight: 5.5 - 13 kg (12 - 29 lb); males are heavier.
Length: 38 - 76 cm (15 - 30 in).
Maturity: Females 3 - 4 years; males 4.5 - 7 years.
Gestation Period: 190 - 196 days.
Breeding: 1, rarely twins; weaning occurs at around 12 months.
Diet: Mainly vegetarian, eating fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, roots and some invertebrates.
Lifespan: Up to 28 years.
The colour of the upperparts can vary from yellowish-grey to greyish-brown. The fur around the face is darker.
They are strong and powerful, allowing these monkeys to climb well.
Underparts are whitish. The fur tends to be longer around the face.
In common with other members of their family, Barbary apes have pouches in their mouths in which they can store food.
Barbary apes can be fierce and can give a powerful bite.