Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Barbary apes

in the New York Times:

Legend has it that as long as the Barbary apes roam the rock of Gibraltar, the territory will remain safely under British rule.

The British have embraced this particular piece of folklore for centuries; not even Churchill, in the throes of World War II, dared to disregard it. In 1944, with British morale battered by the war and the Rock's monkey population dwindling, he took no chances. He ordered a shipment of Barbary macaques from Morocco, a short hop across the strait.

Little did Churchill envision how big the monkey population would grow, nor the shenanigans that would come along with it.

There are now nearly 230 tailless Barbary monkeys on Gibraltar, and they do not merely live on the Rock so much as dominate it. As the last free-ranging monkeys left in Europe, the macaques happily milk that privilege, oblivious to the consternation they provoke among the Rock's other set of primates, their human neighbors.

The pictures are adorable, though...


  1. Paul Gallico actually wrote a novel about the importation of the monkeys. It's called "Scruffy". I read it years ago so don't recall it that well but seem to remember that it was an entertaining read.

  2. Oh, thanks for the rec, I love Paul Gallico but have never heard that one. Will definitely get hold of it. And I am informed by a friend who knows about these things that Curious George is a Barbary monkey... 2 literary references, then...