By John Smith • 31 May 2020 • 13:31
THE Gibraltar government has always taken the view that whilst it encourages visitors to enjoy seeing and to a limited extent interacting with the Barbary macaques, it has discouraged them from touching or otherwise interfering with macaque natural behaviour.
The official line is that not only does it prejudice their health and social structure but macaques are prone to succumb to human disease.
This has been seen in the past when some macaques have for example contracted Hepatitis A and there is also the possibility of humans contracting infection through contact with a macaque.
With the arrival Covid-19, the Government is taking strict measures to prevent contact with the macaques in order to minimise the risk of their contracting the disease as primates elsewhere have been known to be susceptible.
There is of course the legend that should Gibraltar lose its macaque population then Britain in turn would lose the Rock, so there may be an element of self-protection in this decision.
Due to the low level of the virus in Gibraltar and lockdown of tourist sites, the Gibraltar government believes that it is virtually definite that the macaques have not contracted Covid-19.
The government has therefore published a Bill to amend the Animals Act which will make touching or other interference with the natural behaviour of macaques an offence except under licence for management, research or veterinary purposes.
When things start to return to normal however, it is unlikely that if people are allowed to visit the monkey colony again that the animals themselves will be aware of the law and many tourist in the past has suddenly found a macaque jumping on their shoulders or touching them whilst trying to find food.
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Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica.
Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene.
Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development.
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