Gibraltar's apes: a cultural mascot (Shutterstock)
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Gibraltar’s Barbary macaques - “as long as they remain, so will the British”

Gibraltar is home to the last free-range population of monkeys in Europe. Dr Eric Shaw explains their historical and contemporary significance to the Rock 

How monkeys arrived on the Rock is, for the most part, a story lost in time. The Barbary macaque was once widespread throughout Europe before the last Ice Age. However, it was still very unlikely that Gibraltar would become home to the remnants of those European populations. One could speculate that they were brought here by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans - or more plausibly the Moors, who actually occupied the Rock for the longest period of time. But all would be speculation, as there is no documented evidence to support any of these hypotheses.

Historic origins

One of the first written records of macaques in Gibraltar came from the Spanish writer Ignacio Lopez de Ayala in his Historia de Gibraltar of 1782, where he mentions that macaques were being “persecuted”. Many academics do not, however, consider Ayala’s Historia as a sound documented record even though he is greatly quoted.

The macaques’ presence on the Rock gained popularity during the Great Siege of Gibraltar between 1779-1783, during which Spain and France launched an ongoing assault upon British Gibraltar by sea and land. One surprise attack – so the legend goes – was thwarted by the monkeys who were disturbed in the night, and in turn alerted the night watch to the attack. This legend gave rise to the saying that as long as the monkeys remain on the Rock, so will the British. It is also known that General George Eliott, a governor of Gibraltar in the late 1800s, would not suffer apes to be molested or taken.

Modern times

From 1915 to 1991, the monkeys were enlisted on the nominal roll and cared for by the military. This was mainly due to the complaints down the years, mostly by the military themselves, of damages caused by a lack of control over these wayward simians.

An officer in charge of apes was appointed to the care and provision the monkeys at Queens’s Gate, an area of Gibraltar where then much of the macaque population was concentrated. A daily count was to be taken, and this continued till 1991 when the government of Gibraltar took over from the Ministry of Defence. Provisioning continues today as it did with the military, so as to hold the monkeys on the upper reaches of the Rock.

The monkeys, for their part, continue to search out gullible tourists and residents alike in the search for rich pickings (they do like our junk food). Tourists love to feed them throwaway, high-calorie food. These intelligent creatures have adapted to this habit – it may appear that they depend on us but this is not the case. Rather, they use us. If we don’t feed them our wasted food, they will go and forage.

A helping hand

At the Helping Hand Trust, we have a macaque team that help look after the monkeys within our wider conservation work. Part of our job is to provide an easy morning breakfast and hold them on the upper reaches of the Rock. Other members of our team patrol the lower reaches and urban areas to ensure waste food is disposed of within purpose built waste bin enclosures, so as not to attract the animals.

On the upper Rock, the objective is to curtail tourist feeding. It is a difficult task, as many simply can’t resist their pleading look and cheeky approaches (my own mother couldn’t; they always got one more chocolate!).

And what about the recent headlines about “disruptive monkeys” being exported to Scotland? It’s a journalistic spin; a Scottish wildlife park asked if we could let them have a troop of monkeys. We sent them a troop of 30 – one cohesive group that all knew each other.

A cultural mascot

The macaques on Gibraltar are of European significance, they are the only free-ranging primates in Europe, and they are the only macaques outside of Asia.

The significance of this population to Gibraltar is far-reaching, they are our flagship species, and they are iconic to Gibraltar. They are an economy unto themselves, providing inspiration for postcards, mugs, fridge magnets, t-shirts, and a multitude of other untold souvenirs. From the perspective of tourism, they are a key part of an industry that provides employment to a great number of people. Without them, as the legend says, we would not be who we are.   

Dr Eric Shaw is director of the Helping Hand Trust, and supervises the macaques within Gibraltar's Upper Rock Nature Reserve

Photo: Getty
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A new Chamber of Commerce to be launched on the Rock between Gibraltar and Israel

For Israeli companies, Gibraltar can serve as an ideal testing ground for new technologies as well as the ultimate gateway into the bigger European markets. 

On the 28th of October, a new Chamber of Commerce between Gibraltar and Israel is going to be launched on the Rock, under the name “Gibrael”. This is the second bi-national Chamber of Commerce to be established in Gibraltar after AmCham was founded a couple of years ago, between Gibraltar and the United States. Gibrael is the brainchild of Eran Shay and Ayelet Mamo Shay, who have moved to Gibraltar over 8 years ago and run a local business & strategic consultancy firm called Benefit Business Solutions, which assist companies from around the world in using Gibraltar as a gateway to Europe.   

What made you decide to establish the Chamber of Commerce between Gibraltar and Israel?

The idea to launch “Gibrael” came from the realization that there are many potential synergies between Gibraltar and Israel. Over the last few years, both the Government of Gibraltar and local businesses are thirsty for innovative technologies and we thought Israel, who is renowned worldwide for being the “start-up nation” and a place from where many leading technologies have emerged, could best answer these needs. For Israeli companies, Gibraltar can serve as an ideal testing ground for new technologies as well as the ultimate gateway into the bigger European markets. There are benefits for both countries, and Gibrael would act as a bridge connecting people and facilitating business from both sides. 

What is it about Gibraltar that makes it attractive to Israeli companies?

Gibraltar’s membership of the EU along with its most attractive tax regime in the EU (10% corporate tax, no VAT, no capital gains tax, no tax on investment income, no dividends tax and other benefits) makes Gibraltar an attractive place for Israeli companies in which to establish a base as part of their expansion strategy to the European markets.

Technology testing and other pilot studies is an important milestone prior to mass marketing. Companies who wish to enter the European markets often want to test their technologies in an EU compliant environment under European standards and regulation. Due to its small size, Gibraltar has fewer bureaucratic layers than most other countries, making access to key decision makers, both in Government and in industry much simpler and quicker. Thus, there are much fewer bureaucratic hurdles in Gibraltar for companies to get approvals, licences or certification than in bigger countries. Gibraltar is a small contained economy (measuring 7sq kilometres), making it easier to administer and run pilot testing schemes and be in close geographical proximity to all test sites. Moreover, most start-ups have limited financial and human resources which impede on their ability to test trial their technology in the large countries thereby creating a barrier to entry to the big European markets.

Gibraltar’s unique advantages significantly reduce time to market and provide cost efficiencies to companies who wish to access the European markets. Innovative companies in the fields of FinTech, CleanTech, Telecom, smart city solutions, homeland security and more are already here and ripping the benefits of testing their innovative technologies first in Gibraltar, before moving on to the bigger markets in Europe.

Israeli companies from what sectors are likely to benefit from doing business in Gibraltar?  

Israeli FinTech startups and established financial services companies, including banks, insurance companies, funds, and asset managers can benefit from Gibraltar’s EU membership by becoming regulated in Gibraltar and then “passporting” their licence to the rest of the EU. This is also true for e-money type operations such as Forex trading platforms, electronic wallets, payment processing companies and other innovative financial services. The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (FSC) is recognized for its quality by the IMF and boasts an accessible and user-friendly approach.

Another popular sector which has already seen vast Israeli involvement is the eGaming sector.  Gibraltar is home to 35 of the biggest names in the online gaming industry. Being close to these top operators, acts a magnate to related support services and software development companies who wish to enter this lucrative market.

Other types of eBusinesses such as online retailers, ePublishing, online marketing agencies and more can also benefit from Gibraltar’s position as a hub on the Europe-India internet gateway, offering bandwidth capacity of 3.84 Terabit. In addition, the Rock’s territorial tax system implies that income generated from outside Gibraltar is potentially exempt from tax in Gibraltar- a huge benefit for such companies.   

Finally, the fact that Gibraltar does not have a manufacturing sector and almost completely relies on imports for its domestic needs, means that manufacturers of finished goods, equipment, machinery and consumer goods, can explore opportunities in this market.    

What is planned for the Gibraltar-Israel launch event?  

This is going to be a high profile event, in the presence of the Chief Minister and other ministers from the Gibraltar Government, delegates from the Gibraltar Finance Centre and other local associations and various business leaders. The Israeli delegation will include the Economic Attaché from the Israeli Embassy in London, representatives from several Israeli trade and industry associations, and various CEOs of Israeli corporates. There will be opportunities for one-to-one meetings as well as networking dinners.    

For further details on the event please contact Eran Shay at


Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.