Monkey Drive-thru Now Open

9 October 2015

Drive round our macaque reserve

It is with great joy we can announce the macaque drive-through is open! Visitors can now drive through the macaque enclosure and see our cheeky new residents.

This eagerly anticipated opening was subject to a 14 week delay, as a result of the initial enclosure design failing to keep these able climbers on the right side of the fence. Since then, we have used 180 scaffold tubes, 180 cube of concrete, 800 clamps, 2000 metres of rails, 600 sheets of steel, 60,000 self tapping screws to build a fence the macaques should find impossible to scale - a slippery overhang has proven most effective and negates the need for any electric fencing to be used.

Head Keeper Craig says:

"The macaques have settled in really well, when visitors drive round they'll see the macaques spread throughout the reserve. We keep the reserve somewhat overgrown to encourage natural behaviour and enrich the life of our macaques. We've planted a mixture of wildflower and root-crop for the macaques to investigate and eat; almost every part of the plant is eaten, including flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, bark, and roots - gone are the days where animals are fed out of buckets - they have to go out and find their own food, this includes live prey such as snails, earthworms, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, moths, ants, and even tadpoles in their new pool.

Alongside a dedicated team of keepers, we have researchers studying the behaviour of our troop so we can compare them to their wild counterparts and also ensure the welfare of our troop is monitored and improving all the time."

Our 30 Barbary macaques dubbed ‘The Middle Hill Troop’ arrived at the park in October 2014. The troop came from Gibraltar, where the Barbary macaque population is expanding and encroaching on the local town, causing trouble for Gibraltar residents. The ‘Middle Hill Troop’ lived between the top of Gibraltar rock and the town, the expanding macaque population pushed the troop into the town. Being a highly intelligent, brazen and agile monkey, the Barbary macaque soon began to cause problems for the locals; emptying bins, steeling food, robbing houses and messing up gardens.

Moving the troublesome ‘Middle Hill Troop’ was deemed a preferable alternative to lethal control. We will now care for the troop as part of a breeding group as the species is listed as endangered - populations of Barbary macaques, particularly in the Atlas mountains of their native Morocco, have suffered a major decline in recent years. The monkeys are poached for bush meat and as live specimens to fuel the illegal pet trade. The habitat of the macaque is also under threat from increased logging activity.

The macaques needed no encouragement to explore their five acre reserve, keepers have planted lots of tasty treats to keep them lightly grazing throughout the day. To mark the opening of the reserve, park manager Gary set up this photo shoot as a bit of fun and timely reminder for visitors to remain in their cars with their windows, doors and luggage racks firmly shut.

Park manager Gary Gilmour:

"Today's photo shoot is a bit of fun to let people know the reserve is open, as you can see the macaques are very inquisitive and will investigate novel items. However, it serves as a good reminder to visitors that they must keep windows and doors shut and locked, and also to make sure roof boxes are secure when you're driving through.

For those not brave enough to take a car through, we have a bypass in place and you can see the macaques through the viewing windows of their building."