The famous monkeys are one of the best known aspects of Gibraltar. They have no tail and belong to the Macaca Sylvanus species which are only found in Morocco, Algeria and Gibraltar. Their origin on the Rock is unsure, as there are no written references until the 18th century. Legend tells that they emigrated from Morocco through a tunnel under the Strait but it is more probable that they came with the the first Arab invaders or at the beginning of British rule to provide entertainment. It is said that the day they disappear, Gibraltar will cease to be British.
There are more than a hundred barbary apes at present. Their births and deaths are registered and they all have a name. Since the beginning of the 20th century they are under the control and responsibility of the government of Gibraltar and the army takes care of their food and peaceful coexistence.
There are two colonies of monkeys – a group of twenty reside in Ape’s Den, next to Queen’s Gate, and the rest in the area of the Great Siege.
The slopes of the rock are also home to rabbits, porcupines and rattlesnakes. A great number of dolphins live in the bay where they breed in the summer.
For ornithologists, the southern peak of the Rock is a mythical point where thousands of migratory birds cross over the Strait in spring and autumn. Birds that live on the Rock include the Moorish partridge, the hoopoe, the blackcap warbler, the reed warbler and the peregrine falcon.
At the top of the Rock the flora comprises pine trees, eucalyptus and wild olive trees. In the lower part there is a great variety of bushes and plants such as broom, jacarandas, palm, bougainvillaea, honeysuckle, lavender and jasmine.