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Gibraltar moves to protect iconic Barbary monkeys from getting Covid-19

A Barbary monkey in Gibraltar
A Barbary monkey in Gibraltar AFP/Archivos

Authorities in Britain’s tiny enclave of Gibraltar has moved to protect its iconic Barbary monkeys. With the spread of the coronavirus epidemic across Europe they have banned tourists from touching the animals.

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Interference with Barbary macaques has always been seen as detrimental to them, and the official line has for years been to discourage visitors from touching or otherwise interfering with macaque natural behaviour.  

According to a statement from the government of Gibraltar, not only does touching prejudice their health and social structure, but macaques are prone to succumb to human disease.  *

“This has been seen in the past when our macaques have for example contracted Hepatitis A.  There is also the possibility of human contacting infection through contact with a macaque,” the statement reads.

With the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the Government has introduced strict measures to prevent contact with the macaques.

 This is to minimise the risk of their contracting the disease and becoming ill or dying.  Primates elsewhere have been known to be susceptible, the statement adds.

Because of the low level of the virus in Gibraltar and of the prompt lockdown of tourist sites, it is virtually certain now that the macaques have not contracted COIVID-19. 

The keep it that way, it is now an offence to interference with the natural behaviour of macaques an offence except under licence for management, research or veterinary purposes.

Feeding them is already illegal and punishable by heavy fines

 With just 161 cases of COVID-19 in a population of 30,000, the impact on Gibraltar has been relatively low, especially in comparison with neighbouring Spain, one of Europe's worst-hit countries.

Gibraltar has not registered any deaths from Covid-19, while just on the other side of the Gate, in the Spanish side, at least 33 deaths have been recorded, with approximately 10 active cases.

On the Spanish side of the controversial border crossing, Phase 2 began this Monday, but on the other side, in Gibraltar, movement restrictions had already been lifted, although the meetings are still limited to a maximum of 12 people.

 

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