Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Barbary Macaque

Macaca sylvanus
Meet the only primate (besides humans of course!) to live on the European continent. Barbary Macaques, which  also live in Morocco and Algeria, exist in a handful of colonies within the British territory of Gibraltar, which is located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

Though they are sometimes referred to as Barbary Apes or Rock Apes, that name is not technically correct. Though they do not have tails, they are actually true Old World Monkeys. They live in colonies that can number over 100 members, and they are relatively unique among Macaques in that the males actually help care for the young. This is due to the fact that the females will mate with more than one male, so the paternity of all offspring is uncertain.

Legend has it that British rule will continue on the tiny, 2.5 square mile stretch of land as long as the Macaques are around. (Sound familiar to a certain tale about the Tower Ravens, huh?) When the Monkeys began to dwindle in population during the early 1900s due to illness, more were important from Africa and reintroduced. There are now close to 300 Barbary Macaques living on the Rock of Gibraltar in a protected nature reserve (though they do come down to the city from time to time), and they have become quite the tourist spectacle!

Elsewhere the Barbary Macaque populations aren't doing so well. They were once widespread throughout Northern Africa, but now live in only a few pockets of Morocco and Algeria. Habitat loss from human encroachment and the logging industry has led to declining numbers. Hunting and culling practices have also led to lasting, negative effects on the species. They are now protected in a handful of national parks, and there are suggestions to reintroduce them to Libya and Tunisia.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Northern Africa, Gibraltar
Size : Body length around 2ft (60cm), Weight around 22lbs (10kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Primates
Family : Cercopithecidae -- Genus : Macaca -- Species : M. sylvanus

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