GIBRALTAR (Reuters) - A pack of at least 25 of Gibraltar’s famous monkeys are being killed because they are threatening human health in one of The Rock’s popular tourism areas, a government minister said on Tuesday.
Two of the monkeys -- a national symbol for the British colony at the foot of Spain -- have already been given a lethal injection, said Gibraltar’s Tourist Minister Ernest Britto who issued the license for their culling.
“The decision was not taken lightly,” he said. “It is a last resort.”
Gibraltar’s residents have long lived alongside the monkeys or macaques, but Britto said the behavior of one pack had got out-of-hand in Catalan Bay and Sandy Bay, two popular tourist areas on The Rock.
“Children are frightened, people cannot leave their windows open for fear of the monkeys stealing, apes can bite and contact with them runs the risk of salmonella or hepatitis,” said Britto.
Last month, Britto told Gibraltar’s parliament that once the cull of 25 macaques is completed the overall monkey population would be set at around 200.
The cull will take time since the monkeys must be lured into cages and then sedated before killing, he said.
Gibraltar has been running a birth control problem to control the monkey population for about six years but the programme is taking time to work.
Franco Ostuni, general manager of the Caleta Hotel, said guests rooms have been vandalized by monkeys scrounging for extra food.
“What has to stop is the damage that apes are doing to Gibraltar, private properties and individuals without anyone taking responsibility for it,” he said.
However, the International Primate Protection League said it was considering calling on tourists to boycott Gibraltar if the local government did not stop the cull.
“It is clear that the Government of Gibraltar is still not managing their population of macaques in a responsible manner, despite the fact that they undoubtedly boost the nation’s economy as arguably their most popular tourist attraction,” said Helen Thirlway, head of IPPL in the UK.
Reporting by Dominique Searle, writing by Sarah Morris