TALK about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
A troop of mischievous monkeys who were causing mayhem on the Rock of Gibraltar have been evicted and flown more than 1,000 miles to a plush new home in Scotland.
The 30 Barbary macaques had been rampaging through people’s property, ripping up gardens and rooting through bins in search of food on the British overseas territory at the tip of the Iberian peninsular.
However, yesterday the troop arrived at their new home – Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling – where they will be accommodated in a “luxury” heated house with a 2½-acre enclosure, complete with a swimming pool and trees to climb.
The £32,000 cost of transporting the monkeys was met by the Gibraltar government, the safari park said. The animals will be in quarantine for 30 days.
The monkeys arrived at Blair Drummond following a deal with the territory’s administration to reduce the macaque population. Ministers said exporting the macaques was preferred to culling the animals, whose rise in numbers has caused problems for local residents. The monkeys, aged between six months and 20 years old, were flown to Gatwick Airport before completing their journey to Scotland by land.
Yesterday, park animal collection manager Sheila Walker said: “It has taken over a year of planning and organising the transfer of these macaques and we cannot believe it’s finally happening. We are all very excited about having a new species in the park.
“Our team leader has spent some time in Gibraltar with the ape management team and is fully prepared for all the mischievous antics the macaques will be getting up to.”
Gibraltar environment minister John Cortes said the transfer was the first large-scale export of macaques since 1990.
The group of monkeys, which includes three babies, lived between the top of Gibraltar Rock and the town, where they had been plaguing local residents.
Craig Holmes, head of the macaque section at Blair Drummond, said: “They had been moving down into the town and they’re not stupid, they’re clever – they know there’s food down there. People leave bins out and tourists feed them as well.
“They were causing problems for the local people, making a mess in their gardens, ripping open their bags to get to the food. So they’re reducing the numbers to try to move them out of the town and encourage them back up to Gibraltar Rock.”
The macaques left Gibraltar yesterday and arrived at the safari park after hours of travel.
Mr Holmes said: “They seem to have settled in really well. They are grooming each other, they are all foraging around for food, and drinking, so they all seem quite happy considering they’ve had a long journey.”
Visitors to the attraction will be able to see the macaques in a new drive-through section of the park from next March.
The wild monkeys are said to have been introduced to the Rock by the Moors, who occupied southern Spain between 711AD and 1492. Today, there are estimated to be more than 300.