MADRID, Spain – A renegade group of Gibraltar's Barbary apes, the only non-human primates to live in the wild in Europe and a popular symbol of the quirky British colony, has annoyed locals so much that authorities have decided a cull is inevitable.
A cluster of 25, out of a population of around 200, moved to a popular beach-side area some months ago and picked up habits such as stealing food, entering rooms through open windows and harassing tourists, officials said Thursday.
Such has been the havoc wreaked by the apes that the territory's tourism minister, Ernest Britto, has decided to put the beach dwelling group down, government spokesman Francis Cantos said.
"I can confirm that tourism minister Britto has decided to issue a license for a cull," Cantos said.
"The decision was not taken lightly. It is a last resort," Britto was quoted as telling the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper.
The pack of primates, which despite their name are actually monkeys — Barbary macaques — invaded an area called Catalan Bay where they remained because they were able to rummage for food.
The sandy beach is popular with tourists and has a luxury hotel. Britto took advice on how best to deal with the problem and decided the apes posed a danger to public health. Two apes have already been given lethal injections, Britto said, according to the Chronicle.
The British army, which is responsible for caring for the apes, has in the past often had to replenish Gibraltar's population with monkeys from Africa.
Barbary apes also live in Morocco and north Algeria.
In Gibraltar, the apes mainly inhabit the high ground of the rock, once one of the British navy's principal refueling points at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.