Monkeying Around in Gibraltar

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January 5, 2017 by genelup


Corporal Alfred Holmes has an unusual military duty.  He has been assigned to take care of the rock apes in Gibraltar, a British possession on the southern tip of Spain.

Holmes said they try to keep from 28 to 35 apes on the rock at all times.  The extras are sent to zoos around the world.

There are two packs of apes on the rock, and they usually stay about a quarter-mile apart.  Harold is the leader of the wild group, and Dudley recently overthrew Mark as the leader of the tame group.  Holmes’ major headache comes at mating season when all hell breaks loose with the apes.

The tourists also give Holmes a headache, too.  “They (tourists) try to make them (apes) friendlier than they are,” he said. “They come to pet them.  If they don’t tease or touch them they are all right, but they think the apes are children.  They shouldn’t touch them at all.”

When humans come too close to the apes, the apes may steal their hats and glasses.  One ape stole and destroyed a woman’s hat that had artificial cherries and bananas on it.  The hat cost $75.  “She was almost crying,” Holmes said.

The apes sometimes come down and steal windshield wipers from nearby cars.

Holmes said a mother ape will spank her baby to discipline it.  And, after a baby ape is born, the mother will cut the cord and eat it.  If an ape gets sick, it is treated like a soldier in the military hospital.  Sometimes an ape will get a hernia.  Holmes’ military duty is to feed the apes; a total of about 1,000 pounds of food a year.

“An ape will chatter its teeth if it is pleased with you,” Holmes said. Especially after Holmes feeds them. Holmes much rather do that than be stuck in the base mess hall peeling potatoes.

(From my book “My Life Shattered then it got worse, until…,” my 1968 travels in Europe and Morocco. It is a touching, vivid and ultimately inspiring account of a young man’s life unraveling, and the journey to put it back together.)


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