Waiting for the bus

Oh to be a monkey and have a choice of where to sit at the bus stop.

Dashing down the main street in Gib to catch the bus over at La Linea to Mรกlaga, I suddenly came upon a troop of monkeys hanging around this Gib bus stop by Laguna Estate.

It doesn’t matter how long I have lived here or seen them in Main Street, if I have a camera with me I’ll invariably take a photo of them. It’s one of those Gibfactors that makes the place so unique. Where else do you see monkeys waiting for the bus? ๐Ÿ˜€

Although commonly called the Apes of Gibraltar, they are actually monkeys, Barbary Macaques to be accurate (Macaca sylvanus). Legend has it that when they leave Gib, the place will cease to be British. In fact they breed quite happily so in the past there has been culling (aka killing) of the monkeys, but the last I heard the government was looking at introducing a sterilisation programme. Compulsory sterilisation is marginally more civilised than killing I suppose.

Our monkeys are the only free-ranging ones in Europe. The same ones are in North Africa, in Morocco and Algeria. It is the only macaque found in Africa (all the others are in Asia) and it is classified as a vulnerable species.

There are around 200 of them, depending on whether you read the government web site or the Gib ornithological and natural history society web site. No idea how up to date the figures are on either site.

Male Macaques live for about 15 to 17 years and females live 18 to 22 years. Every birth and death is recorded by Sites Management and each ape is given an official name at birth.

Behaviour (things to look out for)

A warning to keep your distance.โ€จโ€จ
Tooth Chatteringโ€จ
They do this to calm down and make-up after confrontations.
Keeps their fur clean and is a social activity. They spend about 20% of their day grooming each other. At stressful times adults may grab an infant, hold it between them and tooth-chatter. This behaviour, unique to Barbary Macaques, is thought to help keep peace in the group.
Infant Careโ€จ
Babies are born every summer after five to six months gestation. Most group members can be seen playing with, grooming or resting with infants, regardless of their relationship to them. Often females are content to let other ‘aunts’ help care for the babies after the first few days. Look out for a common grouping of a baby, mother and ‘aunt’.

Male Barbary Macaques are unusual amongst primates in that they take a friendly, close interest in infants. You can often see males carrying babies or keeping an eye on them. Sometimes this communal infant care causes stress, you may see pouting, threats and tooth-chattering when a mother disputes custody of her baby with an over enthusiastic baby-sitter.

They forage on the Rock and their diet is supplemented with fresh fruit, veg and seeds. It is illegal to feed them and there is a fine of ยฃ500 which never seems to be implemented.

As one of the biggest tourist attractions – competing with cheap fags and spirits – most tourists take a trip up the Rock to see them. Whereupon either said tourists or said taxi drivers lure them for photos with crisps and other junk food. Apart from anything else it isn’t good for their health and leaves them susceptible to illness eg diabetes. Of course when they have outlived their photo opportunity shoot and start wrecking car aerials or refuse to go away people then kick out at them or try and frighten them off.

Being more intelligent than their primate cousins – humans – (which doesn’t take much), they naturally work out that plastic bags and rustling means junk food. So the moral there, is do not carry plastic bags when you see monkeys. They are prone to grabbing plastic shopping bags, and often come down to the local rubbish bins to see what goodies are kicking around.

Their behaviour can be aggressive, especially when they have young ones – which you can see in the photos. Many people are frightened of them for this reason and will by-pass certain streets when the monkeys come down the town.

They are also known for happily climbing in through windows into either hotels (The Rock and Caleta Palace) or into peoples’ houses.

So don’t feed junk to monkeys, don’t use plastic shopping bags, and close your windows or get some netting.

Leave the monkeys alone and treat them with respect.

More info here on these two sites:




33 comments on “Waiting for the bus”

  1. Well done WP!!!! I’ve been waiting for this post to pop up in my reader, so thanks for NOT informing me!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Awwwww, they are totally gorgeous ๐Ÿ™‚

    What an informative post too, I knew little about them before reading this. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Is the one in you main pic pouting? He/she looks quite mean ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    I’ve never understood why folk feed junk food to any wild animal, but I guess with the cruise ships full of tourists coming in, it happens quite a lot ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    It would be a shame to sterilise them, especially as they are a vulnerable species


    • Honestly WP just doesn’t recognise the fact that either of us follow each other. They probably think we should do it via email and save them the bother. I can’t remember the last time one of your posts came up. I just click on it in the Safari screen when I look for a new window as you are invariably there ๐Ÿ™‚

      Aren’t they just amazing? Can you imagine going for the bus to Brum or wherever and having monkeys around your bus stop? ๐Ÿ˜€

      I don’t know whether he was pouting or considering asking for a fee for his photo. Probably an illegal bag of crisps but as I didn’t have any interesting looking bags he must have decided against it. A was on the bus the other day and some of the passengers were talking about them coming into the town and visiting their flats through open windows!

      One of the articles I read said they are increasing the population here, I think the vulnerability is mainly in North Africa. What I can’t hack is the culling ๐Ÿ˜ฆ A bit like the seagull ones because people consider them to be a ‘nuisance’. I can think of one awful lot of people I consider to be a nuisance.


  2. Interesting post, and as I’ve mentioned, I’m not sure whymonkeys don’t appeal to me but it is mitigated by an interest in any animal that co-exists closely with humans. It intrigues me that animals utilise our environment and our emotions and are truly adaptable but wisely keep us at arms length in many circumstances. We should reciprocate in kind. We get attached to their cuteness, they get attached to what we can provide… and there is the dilemma, their environment should manage their population… they’re vulnerable to loss of their natural wild environment, and vulnerable to the perils of modern up close living with humans leading to over population, and western civilisation illnesses ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


    • I’m not fussy about animals, I’m pretty much interested in most of them. We just happen to have monkeys on hand around here ๐Ÿ˜€ I think their behaviour is fascinating and their similarity to people is so spooky.

      Cuteness is a good description. And I think explains a lot of problems humans have with animals. They aren’t dolls or toys, or animal babies, they are animals. Some are domesticated, some are not. I dislike the word ‘pet’, it epitomises your comment about cuteness, I much prefer the term companion animal/s. It also seems far more respectful.

      But when have humans ever respected anything?


  3. Fascinating. Other primates pout, too: the “Oo you lookin at?” challenge need not be verbal.


  4. So cool! And cute, too.
    When I visited Kuaii, there were chickens which roamed the streets. Thought that was quite fascinating. Sometimes standing beside the road you could hear the small cheeps of a hidden nest among the grass. I found that fascinating. But this definitely takes it up a notch ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Forgot to say, very impressive collages here! Well done!!
      Ironically the ad that appears here today is for ‘top photography blogs’. Thought you might want to know. ๐Ÿ˜€


    • Also forgot to say – nice one, DT!


      • DT doesn’t work well with lots of photos and neither do the slideshows, so the collage was really the only way to add lots of piccies.

        I don’t think they are a patch on yours, but poco a poco. I was torn between using the bus stop one (deep brown colours) and the one I used with the green background. Ah, DT, how you toy with us.

        Kuali? Malaysia? I think I saw most animals/reptiles/birds on the street in India, but Malaysia didn’t make my trip although it was meant to. Monkeys just are. They are seriously brilliant. When I grew up I would never have imagined walking down the street and seeing a monkey ๐Ÿ˜€ Or lots of them!!

        Top photography blogs? Laughing. I think that must have been a reflection about yours not mine ๐Ÿ™‚


        • Actually there have been some rather impressive photography moments here from time to time, so no need to sell yourself short. And for the record, some of my early photo collages are cringe-worthy, not nearly as good as these. ๐Ÿ™‚
          The correct spelling would have helped. Kauai. Too early it was, earlier. As in Hawaii. My second favourite place there. It is the island where Jurassic Park was filmed (still haven’t seen it).
          As for Malaysia, that is another place I haven’t yet seen.


          • Ah I wondered if it was Hawaii after a previous exchange but when I looked it up, Malaysia came up.

            Thank you for your compliment. I don’t think any of my pix come anywhere near yours and Vickys (for example), if they are good it is total fluke.

            I do think creating a collage is interesting for which I totally blame you. I am drawn to the DT colours – i blame you for that too!! – it is like opening presents on Christmas Day. What colour will come up? ๐Ÿ˜€


            • glad you are having so much fun with them ๐Ÿ™‚
              and the DT colours is probably why i will never switch blog themes, although it has been said that one should never say never ๐Ÿ™‚


            • urk – the DT colours ARE, not is, what makes me continue with this blog theme.


              • Never mind I took is as DT is (not the colours are). But still, it is fun to wait and see what comes up, although preferably not the M word. Some are soft and subtle, others are so vibrant, and others are grey ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


  5. 200, that doesen’t sound like a lot, quite few actually. Interesting post.


    • Thank you. Well, we are a very small place, a few miles/kilometres square (less than 3 sq ms, just over 6 sq kms) and with a population of 30,000 people. So 200 monkeys can seem like a lot especially when they wander down to the town.


  6. Thanks for the heads up on your post. Very interesting! I knew about the Gib monkeys because you mentioned them after my first monkey post but great to get some insight into them.


    • I thought it was interesting we both posted about monkeys within a week of each other, and that we both included babies.

      And that macaques are in north africa but as far as I am aware nowhere else in your continent (and nowhere else in Europe).

      My partner was walking past the tax office today and there were a couple sitting on the bench outside. A woman was taking photos, and they joked about the monkeys waiting for their tax code ๐Ÿ˜€


      • Apparently our lot are known to have babies at different times in the year but spring seems to be the most popular. We have a different breed up in the Hogsback Mountains about two hours north of the coast called Samango’s – which remind me more of your Gib monkeys although a lot darker. They are the only endangered primates in South Africa, depending on indigenous mountain forest – South Africa has 6% of its indeginous forest left – don’t get me started!!! I am amazed at how the Gib monkeys seem to have been incorporated into village life. You place sounds a lot more urban than this village of ours and yet it feels as if the monkeys have solid status, which I guess works for the tourism board and the monkeys! At least they are not shunning their tax responsibilities!


        • That forest stat is horrific ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          I must do a search about your monkeys to look at the difference. Our South African friends (we all think SA = animals in the wild) were fascinated by how close they could get to the monkeys.


          I’ve got some other photos but I don’t think I’ve ever posted them so I’ll hunt them out.

          The Gib monkey status is a strange one – legend, pests, tourist attraction, – integration? of sorts. Our village is a city and although Gibraltarians call themselves a country, of less than three square miles, we are not a sovereign nation as we are a Brit Overseas Terrritory. Hardly compares with SA. ๐Ÿ˜€

          The tax office is next to some fig trees, which may explain their place in the queue ๐Ÿ˜‰


  7. I get that about Gibraltar being urban, from your past pics and posts which is why it is all the more fascinating. (It is hard not to also think of it as a large village though having not every been there, because of those pics that display old world, European style features.) Pigeons, sure, feral cats and accompanying rats – no problem , but monkeys? They really must play a stronger role in the tourism industry your side than most realise. We spent time in the former Transkei this year, an area which is still really rural and surrounded by coastal forest but not a monkey in sight. Eaten, used for mooti? Who knows? And yet when I actually give it some thought, there are areas in cities like Durban where the monkeys survive in cluttered over-developed suburbs such as The Bluff. Taking them for granted is the big issue for me. So much is changing so fast and I am jsut not sure if people get that – think it is a bit of a mid-life crisis issue that I am dealing with actually:)


    • The city is obviously urban, and as you can see, these were congregating around the bus stop and the wall to a government housing estate (ie cheap subsidised rental). You can’t get much more urban than that. (And yes, I do show the Italianate style buildings and the colonial ones as it is part of Gib’s charm).

      But the top of the rock is a nature reserve, and that is where the ‘Apes’ Dens’ are. I’ve got some old pix from wandering around there, so I’ll repost them, and write more about the fauna up there.

      I think people realise their contribution to the tourism industry, but exactly as you say, locals who were born and brought up here take them for granted, I’ve not been here long enough to do that, and they do captivate me.

      I did look up the Samangos, and yes they look more similar than the Vervets, do, largely because of the colouring, ie not as silvery, and facially more similar. Until you see their long tails, whereas ours have none. Hence the confusion and people calling them apes.

      Interesting you do get monkeys in Durban though. A bit like grey squirrels in the UK live in cities.

      I think I have been coping with a mid-life crisis for the last ten years. If it ever ends I’ll be an OAP I suspect. (If there is any pension to collect which I doubt).


  8. Thanks for the link to your post. Very interesting. It’s a pity that the monkeys were being shot to control the population. Is sterilization being used yet? Your post said it was being considered or at least, I think that is what I read. This was written in 2012 so I hope the monkeys are being treated in a more humane manner.


    • Thanks for checking it out, but it was easier than writing a long reply. I’ve no idea how they culled them, but they do/did seagull culls too. 1) they should cull the people who feed wild animals, and that includes seagulls, monkeys, feral cats and anything else because all that does is damage their natural diet and bring them into town which then causes problems. People are stupid. 2) No idea, I’ll have a check out, but at least they have increased the fines for feeding monkeys in an attempt to deter people. Should have on-the-spot fines as the Gib govt is hardly going to be chasing tourists around the world for a monkey fine.


  9. thanks for sharing the link. Enjoyed this info, the photos, and the comments.
    There are no native monkeys in this part of the world (aside from the human sort), but we have lots of racoons, skunks, and coyotes roaming around the city. In the wilder parts (and the outskirts of town where housing developments are encroaching on their natural habitat) are lots of bears, cougars, and deer. I am always astounded when tourists stop at the side of a road to get as close to a bear as they can (and then wonder why they get a ticket for stopping). They have obviously never seen how fast one of these guys can move, and don’t understand that they are d-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s. Feeding these beasties just signs their death certificates, because when they become habituated to humans they also become dangerous pests. A bear in your house is a little bit more of a problem than a racoon, for example, or perhaps a monkey.


    • It was really to tell you more about our monkeys without re-writing it all! Lazy me as ever. But they interesting. Saw two little ones yesterday out with Snowy (new rescue dog). I’m trying to socialise him with them, ie not to bark, but not easy as he is a hunting dog and thinks any animal and all my clothes are fair game. But the monkeys were too cute. There’s a post a few weeks back on my roughseas blog about one of them attacking my – empty – shopping bag. I’ll find it later.

      I’ve heard similar about the bears from a Texan friend, about racoons from a Californian one, and about moose from a Newfoundland friend. We all have different animals. In Spain we get snakes and lizards, ie geckos and chameleons. Baby monkeys are cute, like most baby animals (apart from the people ones) but the big alpha males can be quite nasty. They have sharp teeth and also move fast. They might not be as big as bears or quite as dangerous but they could do one awful lot of damage.

      But sensible behaviour is the solution. They deserve their own space and when they come down the town, you keep windows closed, and walk past them in the street. If they do come nearer to you, interested in your shopping bag or your dogs, you tell them politely they are a nice monkey but please go away. Or something like that! Works for me, so far. I’ll see if I can find the monkey story on roughseas now.


    • This isn’t the one I was thinking of, but it will do for now!


    • Here’s the other monkey post, scroll down, the monkey incident is towards the end.


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