Barbary Ape (Macaca sylvana)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family:    Cercepithecidae
Size:    Length: 1.5 to 2.5 feet (0.4  to 0.7 m) 
Weight: 10 to 21 pounds (4.5 to 9.5 kg)
Diet: Small animals, insects, fruit, plant leaves, seeds, roots and pine cones
Distribution: Africa and Rock of Gibraltar
Young:  One, once per year
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Group:  Troop
Lifespan: Approximately 20 years



·       Barbary apes are the only macaques found in Africa; all other macaques are found in Asia.

·       According to legend, British dominion will end if Barbary apes disappear from the British-held Rock of Gibraltar.

·       Barbary apes actually have very small tails that can only be seen if the monkey is handled.

·       Barbary apes are closely related to the rhesus monkey of India.



Barbary apes were once thought to be apes because they appear to have no tail, but they are really monkeys. They have a thick, sturdy body, a round head and light brown fur. Their hind legs are shorter than their front legs, and they walk on all fours. These monkeys can stand up straight on two legs when watching for predators. 



Barbary apes can be found mainly in the Atlas Mountains that range through the African countries of Algeria and Morocco. Barbary apes also live off the southern coast of Spain on the Rock of Gibraltar, distinguishing them as the only free-living primates in Europe. It is believed that Barbary apes once lived throughout North Africa but their numbers declined due to various reasons, including a change of climate and the increase in human populations. Barbary apes usually live in forested or rocky areas at high altitudes. 


Feeding Habits

Barbary apes eat many different things, including small animals and insects, fruit, plant leaves, seeds, roots and pine cones. 



The gestation period is six to seven months and babies have very little hair when they are first born. The fur grows in rapidly and is a dark black, but by the time the young monkeys are four months old, the fur begins to lighten to the colour of an adult’s—light brown. Barbary ape babies nurse for approximately a year, and all the members of the group play with them. Mothers may leave their baby with an aunt or with the father for short periods of time. Males often carry the babies around and play with them. Both male and female Barbary apes will groom the young, rest with them or play with them. 



Barbary apes are extremely social animals that live in groups of up to thirty, and who generally get along with other species, rarely acting out aggressively. They spend much of the day grooming each other and can often be heard chattering together in a friendly manner. Like most monkeys, they have a natural curiosity and in areas where they live near human settlements, they sometimes enter a village and take things. Barbary apes move in groups and warn each other of danger. They move on all four legs but will stand on two to scan the distance. They sleep at night in trees or in rock crevices and are active during the day. 



The Rock of Gibraltar population is protected by the British government. The British Army guards the colony, and the births and deaths of the Barbary apes are recorded. The population dropped to only seven monkeys in 1942, but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered Barbary apes to be brought in from North Africa to help maintain the population. There are now approximately 150 Barbary apes living on Gibraltar. 



Walkers Mammals of the World, Nowak

Barbary Ape Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US