I WASN’T going to share this video of my mate, Dave, meeting a monkey in Gibraltar.
One reason is that I used a bad word in it but he’s managed to bleep it out.
Another is that Dave’s hair looks a mess.
The main reason is that it shows him experiencing something that the Gibraltar government wants to discourage: an ‘unwanted interaction’ with a Barbary macaque.
(And all because we took a backpack. It didn’t contain any food or drink – just a notebook, two cameras and an extra jumper for me – it can be pretty nippy in December at a height of over 1,300 feet.)
But I’ve decided to publish and be damned, for these not-so-dumb animals’ sake. No one wants to become a monkey murderer by default … and that could happen if we don’t help.
We didn’t actually want monkey interaction. But, if you’re not careful, that’s just what you’ll get. There are 240 Barbary macaques living on The Rock and they’re not stupid (although sometimes humans are).
Year in, year out, these minxy monkeys watch tourists arriving off the cable car, backpacks bulging with tasty treats. Quite why people feel the need to go better provisioned than Sir Edmund Hillary on his expedition to the Himalayas is a mystery. It’s not exactly scaling Everest. The cable car is only a six-minute ride to the top and there’s a café if you fancy a bite (so to speak).
But people do, and it didn’t take the monkeys too long to figure out how a zip works. The cable car brings fresh ‘victims’ every 10 minutes so they get plenty of practice.
These pick-pocket primates don’t wait to be asked. While your back is turned they’ll be on to you (literally), rifling through your rucksack for something other than their Five A Day (the healthy fruit and veg the government provides).
You’ll invariably see one of the dominant monkeys feasting on a packet of custard creams, swigging from a can of Coke or getting stuck in to a tube of Pringles. No sharing. Just too much salt, a big sugar rush and oodles of bad cholesterol for one greedy monkey.
Their skill with zips makes the £500 fine if you’re caught feeding them pretty toothless, unlike these pesky primates which can inflict a nasty bite if so inclined. (Monkeys, like humans, have their ‘off days’.) So, if you want to avoid ‘unwanted interaction’, ditch the backpack.
Because, although having a monkey on your back may seem a bit of a laugh (afterwards, not at the time), the consequences of too much human interaction could be disastrous for Gibraltar’s favourite tourist attraction. And not all that good for humans either.
To a Barbary macaque, humans = food. As humans live in town, that’s where the macaques have been heading in increasing numbers of late, on food forays. So far this year, 59 people have been treated in hospital for minor monkey bites. The most worrying involved a woman who was attacked in Main Street while pushing her grandchild in the pram.
Almost monthly, monkeys are a hot topic on Gibraltar’s parliamentary agenda. Everything has been tried to control them: contraception, noise deterrents, transportation, a ‘get our monkeys back to nature’ leaflet campaign, even (a ‘final solution’ which nobody wants) culling.
Do you want monkey blood on your hands? Then please read these 10 tips:
How to Handle Unwanted Interaction with a Monkey
- Rule 1: What part of Do Not Feed the Monkeys don’t you understand? Do not bring food with you, period. Then neither you, nor thieving little monkey hands, will be tempted.
- Rule 2: Plastic bags are also a big no no. Monkeys react to the rustle of plastic like hungry school kids to the dinner bell.
- Rule 3: Do not wear a backpack. Even if it doesn’t contain food, the monkeys don’t know that and they’re going to check it out.
- Rule 4: Observe the monkeys from a safe distance. Most cameras have fairly powerful zooms these days. You do not need to be within spitting distance (and monkeys can spit) to get a great shot.
- Rule 5: If, despite the above precautions, a monkey leaps on your back, try not to scream (even if others are screaming). Remain very still and quiet. Hopefully it will get bored and jump off. On no account attempt to prise it off. For obvious reasons.
- Rule 6: Avoid eye contact. The monkey will regard this as a challenge and could attack. And always look away – you don’t want a monkey’s bottom in your face (see video).
- Rule 7: If the monkey starts grooming your hair for nits, relax. There’s nothing to worry about (unless you’re wearing a toupé). This is ‘sociable’ monkey behaviour. The less hair you have, the quicker the monkey will get bored (see video).
- Rule 8: Smile! You’re on Candid Camera
- Rule 9: A piece of advice for those filming the interaction. Stand clear when the monkey leaps off your ‘subject’. Swearing on video is uncouth and an effing fiddle (oops) to to bleep out.
- Rule 10: When you get home, wash everything the monkey has come into contact with. Otherwise, you won’t half pong!
Dave’s Monkey Moment on Video (What a patient man!)