The Gregarious Barbary Macaque
The Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) resides chiefly in Morocco and in the mountains of Algeria, with a much smaller population making their home in Gibraltar. The species is considered one of the Old World monkeys and are the only free living primates in Europe, with the exception of humans. They are also sometimes referred to as the Barbary Ape, however they are true monkeys.
Morocco’s Barbary Macaque measures somewhere between 38 and 76 cm in length and has a mass between 5 to 13 kg. They are tailless macaques and their front limbs are longer than the hind limbs. The fur of the Barbary Macaque is yellow-brown to grayish with paler undersides. Their faces are a dark pink color. In general, they are recorded to live for approximately 22 years.
So where will you find Barbary Macaques in Morocco? They are typically found at elevations between 1 600 and 2 100 m or higher, in the Atlas Mountains. They prefer forests consisting of oak, cedar and pine trees. Their waking hours, which are during the day, are spent both in the trees and on the ground. They are an herbivorous species and thus feed on fruit, leaves and roots, but are also known to nibble on insects.
Barbary Macaques are gregarious and live in troops of between 10 to 30 monkeys. It is a matriarchal system, which means that the head female leads the group. However the troop is generally a blend of males and females. The lead female is determined through family lineage and the entire troop hierarchy is also run according to lineage. Barbary’s are unique amongst the macaques in that the males play a vital role in rearing and caring for offspring. They participate in grooming and playing with the young monkeys and thus form close social bonds. They have even been noted to have favorite youngsters with whom they spend more time. It appears the females prefer to select males which show greater parental ability and willingness.
Mating season for the Barbary Macaques is between November and March. Following conception, the gestation period lasts 196 days. The female will give birth to a single offspring. These young monkeys will only reach maturity at around 3 to 4 years of age.
Sadly, the Barbary Macaque is under threat due to habitat loss and ignorance. The IUCN Red List has added the species to the “Vulnerable” list.