Barbary Ape

(Macaca sylvanus)




Facts about this animal

The Barbary ape is a medium-sized, heavily built monkey with a head-body lenght of 53-67 cm and a weight of 5.8-13.7 kg in males, and a head-body length of 46-60 cm and a weight of 5-10 kg in females.


The barbary ape has no tail. The ischial callosities are brown coloured.


The fur is thick, dense and shaggy, sparsely on the underside. The colour is yellowish buff to golden yellow above, the sides and limbs are greyer, and the underside is yellowish grey or yellowish white.


Barbary macaques live in multi-male, multi-female groups with matrilineal hierarchies (females head the troop). They are active during the day, and are equally at home on the ground as in the trees.


After a gestation period of about 196 days, the female gives birth to usually one single young, rarely twins. The newborn weigh about 450 g. They have a uniformly blackish brown coat, which changes to paler mature coat after six months, when the young are weaned. Sexual maturity is reached at 3-4 years. Barbary apes differ from other macaques in that the males help to care for the young.


The Barbary ape feeds on leaves, bark, seeds of coniferes, sprouts, roots, herbs, and invertebrates.

Did you know?
That there is a belief that Gibraltar would remain under British rule for as long as there were still Barbary apes there? While there is fossil evidence to the ancient presence of Barbary apes in Europe, the today’s Barbary ape colony of Gibraltar probably goes back to animals introduced by the British in 1740 for shooting practice. With just four individuals left in 1943, Winston Churchill ordered a new batch to be captured in Morocco and released on the Peñon, apparantly as a morale booster. Obviously this helped – the Union Jack still waves over the Rock of Gibraltar. Today, the population comprises more than 200 Barbary apes, some of which have become too accustomed to humans, molesting people, entering houses and stealing food. In April 2008 it was therefore decided, to cull 25 of the monkeys and to stabilise the population at 200.


Suborder SIMIAE
Name (Scientific) Macaca sylvanus
Name (English) Barbary Ape
Name (French) Macaque berbère ou Magot
Name (German) Berberaffe
Name (Spanish) Mono de Berberea
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Karyn Sig



Range Western Mediterranean: Algeria, Morocco, Gibraltar
Habitat Mountain ranges, temperate oak and pine forests, usually between 1500 and 2000 m above sea level.
Wild population 15.000 individual (1999), although some populations have not been surveyed since 1990 (Red List IUCN 2011).
Zoo population 367 reported to ISIS (2008). In Europe, there are several large monkey parks keeping large numbers of Barbary apes not reported to ISIS, e.g. Affenberg Salem (Germany) about 200, La Montagne des Singes Kintzheim (France) about 280.

In the Zoo

Barbary Ape


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 31 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos keep Barbary apes primarily for educational purposes, because of their interesting social life, and their cultural relevance as the only – although probably introduced – monkey of the European continent.


Some of the European monkey parks make Barbary apes available to reintroduction projects in Morocco.


As ambassadors for conservation of the Atlas region, Barbary apes may be kept in mixed exhibits with Aoudad (Ammotragus lervia), Cuvier's gazelle (Gazella cuvieri), Barbary stag (Cervus elaphus barbarus), vultures, or free-flying white storks (Ciconia ciconia).


The Barbary ape is a relatively non-aggressive species suitable for walk-through enclosures.