A visit to Gibraltar would not be complete without seeing the stars of the show, the Gibraltar monkeys that are an integral part of the country and one of the most popular and amusing tourist attractions. Known as Barbary Macaques, they are the only monkeys found in Europe and thrive mainly in north Africa which leads to the most feasible explanation for their presence in Gibraltar, brought over as pets by the Moors who occupied the land between 700 and 1462. Probably the most outlandish tale told about the Gibraltar monkeys is that they came through a deep subterranean tunnel within St. Michael's Cave connected to north Africa!
However they arrived, they were there in the early 17oo's before Gibraltar became a British territory and after occupation were even looked after by the British Army who included a special military budget to feed and care for the monkeys. All new babies were given names and had their births recorded, and if one was hurt or became sick they were cared for at the military hospital. Today their well being is taken care of by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society along with the local veterinary clinic and they are given a balanced diet and fresh water daily to supplement what they forage for. Due to this fact, feeding the monkeys is against the law and punishable by a hefty fine.
There are currently five troops living on the Rock totalling around 250 individuals, most preferring the higher more secluded terrain on the east side of the Rock, but one troop that has been named the Queen's Gate troop have become quite tame and can be found in the area of Apes Den where they get up to all sorts of antics in their attempts to get food from the tourists. Although quite tame, it is not advisable to get too close or handle the monkeys as they are wild animals and if frightened will often react by biting whoever is holding or trying to feed them.