Barbary Macaque

Barbary Macaque

Barbary ape, Rock ape, Magot

Macaca sylvanus
Population size
Life Span
30 yrs
11-16 kg
450-600 mm

The unique Barbary macaques are the only primates, occurring north of the Sahara in Africa. In addition, these animals are the only macaques, found outside of Asia. As highly adaptable creatures, they are capable of surviving in various environments and temperatures from fir and mixed oak forests to sheer cliffs. Moreover, the Barbary macaques are among the few monkeys, inhabiting cold and snowy regions. They are communal foragers, looking for food both terrestrially and in trees.


The natural range of these primates covers the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco in North Africa. The Barbary monkeys have also been introduced from Morocco to Gibraltar, where these animals currently occur in a small population. They are most commonly found in high altitude mountains, rocky cliffs and gorges. The ideal habitat of this species is cedar forest, although the animals often inhabit mixed forests of cedar and holm-cork oak, pure oak forests, shrubby rock outcrops along coasts as well as grasslands, found at low elevations within their range.

Barbary Macaque habitat map



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These diurnal primates are generally active during the daytime hours, sleeping at night in single-sex clusters of 2 - 3 macaques. Most of their active time is spent travelling and looking for food. The Barbary macaques are highly social animals, gathering in groups of up to 59 individuals with an average of 24. These troops contain individuals of both sexes with equal proportions. Both males and females have their separate hierarchies. Females form strictly matrilineal hierarchies, where each individual is specifically ranked. Meanwhile, the social system of males is somewhat looser. In addition, males of this species are less aggressive than females. Mutual grooming is a common activity in these primates. It's an important part of their life, which helps remove parasites and reduce stress as well as enhances interpersonal relationships between members of a group. About half of all communication between conspecifics contains aggressive behavior. However, the Barbary macaques are more peaceful animals, that most primates.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

These primates are omnivorous animals, typically consuming leaves, roots and fruit. They supplement this diet with occasional insects, caterpillars, frogs and tadpoles.

Mating Habits

158-170 days
1 infant
12 months

The Barbary macaques have a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system, where individuals of both sexes have numerous mates. They breed in November-December and produce offspring in April-June. A single infant is born after a gestation period of 158 - 170 days. The Barbary macaques are known to practice cooperative breeding, which means that all members of the troop take care of the newborn babies. Weaning occurs at about 1 year old. The age of sexual maturity is 4.5 - 7 years old in males and 2.5 - 4 years old in females, after which the latter continue living with their natal troop, whereas the former have to disperse.


Population threats

One of the biggest threats to the overall population of Barbary macaques is loss of their original range as a result of hunting, logging and expansion of human settlements. Population in Algeria suffers from wildfires, livestock grazing and collection of young macaques as domestic pets. Those in Morocco are threatened by logging, overgrazing and drought. In addition, Moroccan forestry authorities even consider selective slaughter of these animals due to their habit of stripping tree bark.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the overall population of this species is about 15,000 animals. However, this data is incomplete. Thus, 30 years ago, the population in Algeria was estimated to around 5,500. The current size of this population is unknown, but is believed to be less. Estimates in other areas include 200 individuals on Giblartar and 6,000-10,000 Barbary macaques in Morocco. Overall, Barbary macaques’ numbers continue decreasing today, and these animals currently classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

As herbivorous animals, the Barbary macaques serve as key seed dispersers of their mountainous range. In addition, these primates are prey species for many local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The extensile cheek pouches of this animal, found near the lower teeth, can extend down the sides of the neck. The Barbary macaques use their cheek pouches to cache food during the foraging process. These 'storages' can contain a huge amount of food, nearly as large as their stomach.
  • When noticing a trespassing troop in their territory, these macaques will scream and grunt at intruders. A loud, high-pitched "ah-ah" vocalization serves as an alarm call, by which Barbary macaques warn group members of threats.
  • Each individual has its own unique call, by which it can be identified. In addition, mothers are able to find their offspring by their cry.
  • The Barbary Macaque is one of the 21 macaque species and the only macaque, native to Africa (all other species are native to Asia).
  • In 1970, a skull of a Barbary macaque was found in Northern Ireland and dated back to the 3rd century BC. Before the Ice Age, these primates occupied a territory along the Mediterranean coast as well as throughout most of Europe, including Germany and the Britain.
  • According to a legend, as long as these primates live in Gibraltar, the area will remain under British control.
  • The Barbary macaques in Gibraltar were once under protection of the British Army, and one of the officers was assigned to care for these animals. All food expanses (e.g. fruit, vegetables, and nuts) were covered by British Army. Moreover, the officers were responsible for heralding births. Sick or injured macaques would receive the same medical attention as enlisted service men, undergoing treatment at local Royal Naval Hospital. Newly introduced individuals were usually named after British dignitaries and high-ranking officers.


1. Barbary Macaque Wikipedia article -
2. Barbary Macaque on The IUCN Red List site -

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